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A national stay-at-home order? Where the public stands

December 13, 2020, 2:00 PM UTC

As hospitalizations and deaths continue to rise, some public health officials are calling for a national lockdown to help control the pandemic. That includes Michael Osterholm, a member of President-elect Joe Biden’s COVID-19 advisory board, who is calling for a six- to eight-week nationwide shutdown.

The short-term consequences would be staggering: Just look at March and April, when the jobless rate soared from 4.4% to 14.7%. Is that something Americans could stomach again? To find out, Fortune and SurveyMonkey polled 2,247 U.S. adults between Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.  

We found that among U.S. adults, 58% support a national “stay at home” order, in which everyone in the country is required to remain in their home except for essential services. Meanwhile, 40% of the public opposes such an order.

That support is striking considering the economic damage caused by state-issued shutdowns in the spring. It also speaks to how concerned Americans remain about the pandemic. However, that support level is down from 65% in a Fortune-SurveyMonkey poll in September.

Perhaps not surprisingly, we found a massive political divide. The majority of Democrats (87%) and Independents (67%) support a national stay-at-home order. Meanwhile, only 24% of Republicans would support such an action.

And there is a split among different income groups: While 70% of Americans earning $15,000 to $29,999 would support such a measure, only 50% of U.S. adults earning over $150,000 would back it.

There’s no clear reason for the divide, but some of it could come down to higher-income earners remembering how quickly stocks crashed in March at the onset of the spring lockdowns. And lower-paid workers might be more cautious given the fact that their jobs often involve face-to-face contact with the general public.

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*Methodology: The Fortune-SurveyMonkey poll was conducted among a national sample of 2,247 adults in the U.S. between Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. This survey’s modeled error estimate is plus or minus 3 percentage points. The findings have been weighted for age, race, sex, education, and geography.


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