August 5, 2020 | By Craig Kafura, Brendan Helm, Charlie Rahr

Global Public Opinion and the Coronavirus: August 5

This week the world passed the 18.5 million case mark, with over 700,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19. Although many nations are attempting to return to normalcy, a second wave of infections in some areas is delaying or even reversing reopening plans. The United States is well into its second wave of infections, particularly in states less affected by the initial pandemic outbreak, forcing some states to halt or roll back plans to reopen businesses. Japan, too, faces a second wave of cases, and is considering a second state of emergency declaration.

The Council survey team is providing updates every other week on public opinion around the world on the COVID-19 pandemic. This week, the Chicago Council Survey team’s update includes polling results from the United States, Japan, Canada, France, the UK, and Australia.

Key Findings

  • With over 150,000 dead, nearly half of Americans (46%) say the US is handling the pandemic worse than other countries, and two-thirds (66%) disapprove of President Trump’s handling of the pandemic.
  • Japan is facing a second wave of coronavirus infections, with many prefectures reporting new record daily highs in COVID-19 cases. In response, a majority of Japanese (61%) say the government should issue a second state of emergency declaration.
  • Although localized outbreaks are occurring in several places in France, 93 percent of the French public believe that they must continue to respect protective sanitary measures for several more months
  • Despite the UK government’s attempts to implement policies to stop the spread of the virus, nearly half of Britons (49%) do not trust the government to control the virus.
  • Although a majority of Canadians (81%) believe that their country will experience a second wave of infections, Quebec has begun to allow gatherings of 250 people.
  • As the Australian city of Melbourne is placed under greater restrictions following an uptick in coronavirus infections, 56 percent of Australians prefer a “suppression” strategy, where the number of cases are kept low and manageable, to contain the virus.


United States

4.7+ million cases, 157,000+ deaths

The United States is establishing itself as number one in a category no one wants to lead: number of coronavirus deaths. With over 150,000 deaths from COVID-19, the US has far and away the most deaths from the disease, surpassing second-place Brazil (94,000) and third-place Mexico (47,000).

America’s poor performance in handling the pandemic compared to other nations around the world has not gone unnoticed among the American public. In March, a HuffPost/YouGov poll found Americans divided over how the country’s response compared to other countries (31% better, 29% about the same, and 28% doing worse). As the pandemic has worn on, Americans have become more disenchanted with the US response. The latest HuffPost/YouGov poll, conducted July 28-30, finds that nearly half of Americans (46%) say the US is handling the pandemic worse than other countries. A quarter (24%) say the US is doing as well as other nations; only 19 percent now say the US is handling it better than most other countries.

The latest ABC News/Ipsos poll, fielded July 29-30, finds two-thirds of Americans (66%) disapprove of President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus. While the president has not seen a positive approval rating on the pandemic since mid-March (when 55% of Americans approved), this disapproval level is far greater than in past months, and tied only with a  July 8-9 poll in which 67 percent disapproved of his handling of the pandemic.

In response to the continuing pandemic disaster, Americans are adopting new behaviors, as they have since the beginning of the pandemic. In addition to wearing masks (see our last update for more details on American views of masks), some Americans are trying to create their own “bubble”—a group of people who follow a similar set of rules to try to minimize the risk of catching COVID-19. Per a July 24-27 Axios/Ipsos poll, 47 percent of Americans say they have established such a bubble. Perhaps their bubble will join their Canadian neighbors in watching the NHL’s bubble hockey.


117,000 cases, 8,900 deaths

Canada continues to experience a gradual decline in its case count since its peak in early May. However, outbreaks are still occurring. A total of 25 people, both employees and patients, have tested positive for COVID-19 at a hospital in Quebec. Despite this, Quebec has gone forward with its plan to permit public gatherings of up to 250 people starting Monday, August 3.

An Ipsos poll conducted July 8-10 shows that a majority (72%) of Canadians support mandatory vaccinations against the virus. Aside from vaccinations, Canadians also seem to support a critical tool in the effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus: business shutdowns. Eight in ten Canadians (83%) would support a shutdown of non-essential businesses if one was needed to slow the spread of a second wave in the fall. Canadians not only support business shutdowns, but they also feel that they are likely. According to a recent poll conducted by Leger from July 24-26, 63 percent of Canadians believe that lockdowns are likely in the next three months. A majority (81%) also believe that Canada will experience a second wave of the coronavirus.


41,000 cases, 1000 deaths

Months after ending the initial state of emergency, Japan is once again facing rising case counts—now at levels that exceed those that caused the initial state of emergency declaration. Nationwide, Japan has seen more than 1,000 new cases daily for several days in a row, and many prefectures are reporting record high numbers of cases.

As the number of cases rise, approval ratings fall. An August 1-2 poll by JNN/TBS News finds that views of the government’s response to the coronavirus are falling rapidly. Six in ten Japanese (61%) give the government negative marks, an increase of seventeen percentage points from early July, when views were more split (46% positive / 44% negative).

While Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga assured the public in a press conference last Friday that the government has no plans to issue a second state of emergency declaration, some prefectural governors may issue their own declarations in response to rising cases, with Aichi prefecture being the first to do so. Those moves may be prompted by public sentiment: a majority of Japanese say that the government should declare a second state of emergency (61%; 26% say it is not necessary). And eight in ten (80%) say that the Diet should reconvene in an emergency session to address the spread of the pandemic.

Given the rising number of COVID-19 cases around the country, and particularly in the major urban centers of Tokyo and Osaka, the government’s travel promotion efforts (the “Go To Travel” campaign) have come at an awkward time. Two-thirds of Japanese (66%) disapprove of the campaign, and only one in five (19%) say that they want to make use of the program.

The second wave of cases also throws more doubt on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. While two in ten say they should be held in July 2021 as planned (20%), a plurality (39%) favor postponing the games further, something the International Olympic Committee has tried to rule out. One-third of Japanese (33%) say the Games should be canceled outright.


191,000 cases, 30,000 deaths

As the new Prime Minister Jean Castex took a tour of Lille, where rising cases have prompted officials to require mask-wearing in certain public places, he warned that “we must not lower our guards. The virus is not on vacation and neither are we.” Even before the case-load began to rise in Lille, a July 6-7 Odoxa survey found that 93 percent of French people believe that they must continue to respect the protective sanitary measures for several more months.

Although cases have dropped substantially since April, localized resurgences of the virus in Lille, Paris, and other cities have kept French people uneasy. Consequently, two-thirds of French respondents (68%) have reported that they often or sometimes feel insecure—the highest proportion over the last four years. At the same time, majorities of French people say they are not confident in the government’s ability to protect its citizens from crimes like delinquency, burglary, or assault (69%) or terrorist attacks (54%).

Despite these feeling of insecurity, in a July 2 survey a majority of the French (86%) said that they have been living very well or somewhat well as they return to their normal lives after the lockdown ended in June.  

The United Kingdom

306,000 cases, 46,000 deaths

In the United Kingdom, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Boris Johnson has indicated that pubs may be re-closed in certain areas in order to ensure that schools can reopen safely, a key priority for Downing Street. It would be the latest in a series of policies designed to curb the spread of the virus in the UK, which has included increasing the quarantine period from seven to ten days, mandating masks in shops beginning on July 24, and implementing a localized lockdown of Leicester beginning on June 29. Despite all these attempts to contain the coronavirus, large majorities of Britons primarily blame the UK government as a whole (70%) and the Prime Minister (65%) for the crisis being handled badly, according to a July 17-20 poll by Ipsos and King’s College London.

This blame placed on the government appears to affect how the British public views the government’s statements about reopening and the return to normal life. Asked about how much they trust the government’s advice about when it is safe to return to work, school, or leisure activities, a slight majority (52%) says not very much or not at all. More broadly, the public is split on whether to trust the government’s ability to control the spread of the virus; while half of Britons (50%) say they trust the government a great deal or a fair amount to control the spread, 49 percent say they do not trust the government very much or do not trust it at all.


19,000 cases, 247 deaths

While Australia’s death and case counts are much lower than other countries, recent outbreaks in the city of Melbourne may put those numbers in jeopardy. In early July, officials placed affected communities under lockdown and rolled out significant testing in a bid to stop the virus’ spread. The city of Melbourne will now be subject to a new set of restrictions beginning Wednesday, August 5. These include a nighttime curfew and the closure of cafes, bars, gyms, and restaurants. It also restricts activities such as shopping to no more than three miles from one’s residence. The new rules will remain in effect until September 13.

Residents of the state of Victoria, where Melbourne is located, appear divided over their state’s response to the coronavirus. According to a poll conducted by Essential Research from July 23-26, half (53%) of Victoria residents rated their state government’s response as “good.” The poll also shows that Australians are split on the best way to tackle the coronavirus. Four in ten (44%) of those polled favor an “elimination” strategy whereby all coronavirus cases are removed while 56 percent favor a “suppression” strategy which has the goal of keeping cases low and manageable. Of those in Victoria, slightly more than half (54%) favor the suppression strategy.


The Chicago Council on Global Affairs highlights critical shifts in American public thinking on US foreign policy through public opinion surveys and research conducted under the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy. 

The annual Chicago Council Survey, first conducted in 1974, is a valuable resource for policymakers, academics, media, and the general public. The Council also surveys American leaders in government, business, academia, think tanks, and religious organizations biennially to compare trends in their thinking with overall trends. And collaborating with partner organizations, the survey team periodically conducts parallel surveys of public opinion in other regions of the world to compare with US public opinion. 

The Running Numbers blog features regular commentary and analysis from the Council’s public opinion and US foreign policy research team, including a series of flash polls of a select group of foreign policy experts to assess their opinions on critical foreign policy topics driving the news.


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