July 22, 2020 | By Craig Kafura, Brendan Helm, Giulia Shaughnessy, Charlie Rahr

Global Public Opinion and the Coronavirus: July 22

This week the world passed the 4.9 million case mark, with over 616,925 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.

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, Italy, the UK, Brazil, and Nigeria.

Key Findings

  • US President Donald Trump’s recent embrace of mask-wearing puts him in line with the majority of Americans, who believe people should wear masks either all the time or sometimes while engaging in many common social activities.
  • In a speech on Bastille Day, President Macron announced that he would be making masks mandatory in indoor public places, a measure of which 83 percent of French people approve.
  • Despite a majority of Canadians (74%) supporting policies mandating masks in public places, the national government has not instituted such policies.
  • With Japan facing down a second wave of infections—reporting on July 22 a single-day record of 795 cases—two-thirds of the public (65%) say that the government should declare a new state of emergency in specific regions in response to the recent rise in cases.
  • While many large firms have rejected the UK government’s scheme which would incentivize businesses to keep furloughed employees on the payroll until January, 55 percent of Britons either strongly approve or approve of this policy.
  • Nearly 7 in 10 Brazilians (69%) believe that the country’s pandemic-induced employment and economic crisis is the worst that they have ever seen.
  • Most Nigerians believe getting the economy back on its feet is of utmost importance, with 52 percent saying the government’s first priority should be the economy, and 38 percent saying it should be protecting people from the virus.

 

United States

3,910,398 cases, 142,031 deaths

The United States continues to grapple with a growing number of coronavirus cases in states across the country, with more than 3.9 million total infections and over 140,000 deaths. With cities like New York and Chicago re-imposing activity restrictions in an attempt to control the disease, mask-wearing is also becoming a popular policy position. CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield last week said that, “if we could get everybody to wear a mask right now I think in four, six, eight weeks we could bring this epidemic under control.”

As noted in our prior public opinion update, mask-wearing has become increasingly common in the US. Axios/Ipsos polling in mid-April found that only three in ten Americans (30%) reported wearing a mask all the time. That number rose to half of the public by mid-May, where it stayed through June. Now, as tens of thousands of new cases are identified daily in states across the country, mask wearing is on the rise again. Six in ten Americans (62%) say they wear a mask all the time when leaving the house, and another quarter (26%) say they wear one sometimes. Few Americans (3%) say they never wear a mask when outside the home.

President Trump’s new embrace of mask-wearing puts him more in line with public views on masks. A June 10-13 Axios/Ipsos poll found that most Americans believe people should wear masks either all the time or sometimes while engaging in many common social activities, including at grocery and retail stores (87%), in busy outdoor spaces (76%), and while socializing with friends and family outside the household (75%). Half of Americans (49%) also say they should be worn while walking outdoors.

Another reason for Trump’s mask pivot: a looming reelection campaign in which the pandemic will be a key issue. The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, conducted July 12-15, found the President trailing his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, on who the public trusts more to handle the pandemic. In late March, the public was split, with 45 percent preferring Trump and 43 percent preferring Biden. Today, the public prefers Biden (54%) to Trump (34%).

Canada

111,697 cases, 8,862 deaths

Like the United States, Canada is now experiencing increasing numbers of infections among young people. Provinces across the country are dealing with this issue as British Columbia, Quebec, and others are all reporting rising case counts in those between twenty and twenty-nine years of age. These infections may be fueling a recent national growth in cases that has brought average daily numbers from 300 in early July to 350 last week. Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, Howard Njoo, noted that the rise “coincides with increasing reports of individuals contracting COVID-19 at parties, nightclubs and bars as well as increasing rates of transmission among young Canadians.” While the current rise in cases may be relatively low, there is concern that continued growth could lead to a more serious outbreak.

Even with the country’s rising case count, nearly one-third (32%) of Canadians polled in a July 10-11 survey by the Angus Reid Institute noted that they rarely partake in a basic form of coronavirus prevention: wearing a mask. Only one in five (20%) of those polled responded that they consistently wear a mask when in public. Unsurprisingly, eighty-one percent of respondents who noted that they are “very concerned” about being infected wear a mask most of the time while not at home. Eighty-five percent of those who responded that they are “not at all concerned” about contracting the virus either rarely or never wear a mask. Despite the varying degree to which Canadians have been adopting mask wearing, there seems to be widespread support for mandatory mask policies. Seventy-four percent of respondents would support a such a policy for public places in their communities. This nationwide support has not translated into nationwide policies as provinces and localities have been allowed to set their own rules regarding masks.

France

177,338 cases, 30,165 deaths

On July 14th, France’s independence celebration known as Bastille Day, President Emmanuel Macron gave an interview to speak about the dual public health and economic crises that France is experiencing. Within these topics, he emphasized that the French people should wear masks when in public indoor spaces, though he stopped short of mandating mask-wearing in public spaces. According to a July 15-16 Odoxa poll, while a slight majority of those who watched this interview said that Macron was generally not convincing (54%), a large majority is in favor of making masks obligatory in closed public spaces (83%).

Some of the other announcements that Macron made concerned youth employment and negotiations between businesses and unions. Regarding youth employment, Macron said that businesses hiring young people with low qualifications at up to 1.6 times the minimum wage would be exempt from certain charges. Asked about this measure, 84 percent of French respondents are in favor. However, in regard to the new rules which allow businesses and unions to negotiate lower salaries to avoid layoffs, people were much less amenable: 55 percent of respondents oppose this rule.

In general, this opposition is likely a broad results of the French people’s continued anxieties about the state of the French economy. According to a July 1-2 Odoxa poll, a large majority of French people say they are less confident about the future of the economic situation in France (77%) than they were a few weeks ago. Moreover, this is coupled with an apparent resentment for the wealthy. When asked if they would favor or oppose a tax on the richest French people, 76 percent of respondents expressed that they would favor such a tax. Asked more flatly if they have a good opinion of rich people, 53 percent replied that they do not, with 63 percent attributing this sentiment to the perception that rich people seek to avoid paying taxes.

Japan

26,999 cases, 996 deaths

After dealing with a first wave of coronavirus infections this spring, Japan is now grappling with rising case numbers in Tokyo and Osaka. According to an Asahi Shimbun poll conducted July 18-19, most Japanese are very (58%) or somewhat (36%) concerned about a second wave of coronavirus infections, and two-thirds (65%) say that the government should declare a new state of emergency in specific regions in response to the recent rise in cases.

With cases on the rise once again, a majority of Japanese (57%) give the government’s response to the coronavirus negative marks, up from Asahi’s last survey in June, when 51 percent said the same. And two-thirds (66%) say that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has failed to demonstrate leadership qualities in the fight against the coronavirus.

The growing number of coronavirus cases in major urban centers is putting a hold on planned economic relief activities as well. As a result of the pandemic, foreign travel to Japan has come to a standstill, causing hardship for many areas of the country reliant on tourism. In response, the government drafted a plan to boost domestic tourism, “Go To Travel”, which aimed to provide discounts on domestic travel within Japan. However, Go To Travel is now running into trouble—and opposition. Three-quarters of Japanese (74%) say they oppose the travel support program.

The public is also starting to doubt whether the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics should open next summer, as currently scheduled. One-third (33%) say the games should open in the summer; another third (32%) say they should be postponed once more, and three in ten (29%) say they should be canceled.

Italy

244,752 cases, 35,073 deaths

The number of new cases of the coronavirus in Italy remain low this week, with new cases mostly confined to the three northern regions of Lombardy, Veneto, and Emilia Romagna. The number of people receiving intensive therapy for the virus has also decreased, with only 47 people throughout the country currently needing the treatment. Despite the low numbers, Italians remain worried about a potential second wave of the virus and about the future of the economy.

One of the main contributors to concern about a second wave is the question of whether schools will open in the fall. Italian school unions have warned that they believe the conditions to reopen schools do not yet exist. However, the government is pushing to have students back in the fall, with the Minister of education stating that schools will reopen on September 14 like they do every year. This debate is likely contributing to fears of a second wave. Data from an Istituto Ixè survey finds that 36 percent of Italians are very worried, 46 percent say they were somewhat worried, and only 11 percent say they were not worried at all.

Italians are also worried about the direction the Italian economy after having been hit hard by the pandemic. The same Ixè survey asked Italians how they felt about the economy, and the responses were not optimistic. Forty-seven percent say they are seriously worried, 44 percent say they are moderately worried. Just 8 percent say they are not very worried or not worried at all.

The United Kingdom

295,817 cases, 45,422 deaths

As the United Kingdom sought to restore normalcy with the reopening of bars and restaurants on July 4, economic concerns are driving new policy initiatives to right Britain’s course. One of the key programs put forth by Downing Street would give employers £1000 for each furloughed employee they keep on past January. While several major UK firms have already rejected this proposition since it was unveiled in early July, a July 15 Redfield and Wilton poll revealed that a majority of Britons either strongly approve (21%) or approve (34%) of this policy. However, they are split on whether or not this will actually be effective in encouraging businesses to take their employees off furlough (38% yes, 35% no 27% don’t know).

Another policy proposed by the UK government is the ‘eat out to help out’ scheme, which would give diners 50 percent off of their meal on Monday through Wednesday in the month of August, so long as they are dining in; takeaway-only restaurants are not eligible. The government will then reimburse participating restaurants and bars up to £10 for each meal. Although this is intended to help struggling bars and restaurants, a July 15 Redfield and Wilton poll shows that almost half of Britons would not feel safe eating at a dining establishment outside (49%) and a majority would not feel safe eating at a dining establishment inside (61%). Whether or not they take advantage of this particular policy, a majority of British respondents believe it is their duty to spend money in support of local businesses (58%).

Brazil

2,159,654 cases, 81,487 deaths

On July 17, the WHO declared that coronavirus cases in Brazil had reached a plateau, meaning that they are no longer increasing exponentially. This announcement comes as Brazil has experienced over 7,000 deaths per week for over a month and over 260,000 new cases per week in the previous two weeks. Taking control of the virus will remain a challenge as Brazil’s response to it has been beset by the firing and resignation of health ministers as well as President Jair Bolsonaro’s downplaying of the virus. President Bolsonaro, who is infected with the coronavirus himself, recently criticized the country’s lockdown measures meant to curb the spread of the virus, remarking that they have “suffocated” the Brazilian economy.

The Brazilian people seem to have little confidence in Bolsonaro’s ability to respond to the continuing challenge of the coronavirus as shown in a June 25-July 3 poll by Vox Populi. Among those polled, 49 percent hold a negative perception of Bolsonaro’s response to the pandemic while 24 percent hold a positive perception. Half (54%) think that Brazil’s pandemic will worsen while 42 percent say it will improve. A majority of Brazilians (69%) say that Brazil’s economic and employment situation is “the worst crisis that [they] have ever seen.”

Nigeria

37,801 cases, 805 deaths

Coronavirus cases in Nigeria have now surpassed 37,000 with over 500 new infections every day. Though cases keep rising, lockdowns and other preventive measures are being relaxed all over the country. While this may increase the number of people infected with the disease, most Nigerians are favorable to this change. According to a GeoPoll survey released July 15, many Nigerians have been hit hard economically by the virus and the restrictions put in place to contain it. Data from the survey shows that coronavirus has stopped almost two thirds (64%) of Nigerians from being able to work. Almost half (47%) say their income decreased a lot, and 28 percent say their income had decreased a bit.

Despite the economic hardships many Nigerians are going through, the Nigerian government has provided little aid. When asked whether they had received any form of aid from the government, only 13 percent of respondents say they had, while the remaining 87 percent responding they had not. Most Nigerians deem the reopening of the economy to be of higher priority than protecting people from getting the virus. Half (52%) think the government’s main aim right now should be to reopen the economy, while 38 percent think it should be protecting people from COVID-19.

About

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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