June 17, 2020 | By Karl Friedhoff, Brendan Helm, Craig Kafura, Giulia Shaugnessy, Zach Lim

Global Public Opinion and the Coronavirus: June 17 Update

As the coronavirus continues to spread globally, the world this week passed the 8 million case mark, with over 444,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19 so far. As nations attempt to return to normalcy, many remain concerned about the possibility of a second wave of infections as businesses and schools reopen. Moreover, a wave of social unrest and protests in major cities across the United States will test the ability of the United States to contain the spread of the virus.

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, South Korea, France, Italy, the UK, and Germany.

Key Findings

  • More Americans now than last month say they are willing to eat at a restaurant (59%, up from 41%), attend church (57%, up from 42%), or go shopping in a mall (53%, up from 38%).

  • In Japan, negative views of the Abe government’s response to coronavirus are declining. In May, 55 percent viewed the government’s response negatively while 46 percent now say the same.

  • As new infections continue to emerge, South Koreans are now more concerned about a second wave of the virus. But concern about contracting the virus is yet to rise significantly.

  • As infections drop in France, the outbreak’s damage to the economy is still salient, and 81 percent of French people expect the economy to get worse in the coming months.

  • Italians are optimistic about the future, with 51 percent saying the worst of the pandemic is now behind them. Many are hesitant to use the newly released contact tracing app.

  • Despite pressure from MPs and UK businesses on the government to relax lockdown restrictions more quickly, 51 percent of Britons think the government is coming out of the lockdown too fast.

United States

2.1 million cases, 116,964 deaths

The coronavirus pandemic, while under control in some areas, is continuing to spread in other parts of the United States. Far from experiencing a second wave, many states are simply experiencing a continuation of the first wave of infections which were never under control. As the coronavirus continues to spread, more and more Americans have experienced the disease in a personal way. Axios/Ipsos polling finds that one-third of Americans (33%) personally know someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, and 16 percent say they know someone who has died as a result of the coronavirus.

Despite the continued accumulation of coronavirus cases, concerns about contracting the coronavirus are down slightly. As ABC News/Ipsos nationwide polling from June 10-11 shows, the minority of Americans not so concerned (23%) or not concerned at all (8%) is at its highest level since mid-March. That concern is deeply at odds with the actual rate and pace of the spread of COVID-19. In mid-March, the United States was just beginning to see more than 1,000 new cases each day; in June, the US has reported nearly 20,000 new cases each day.

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Though a majority of Americans remain concerned about the coronavirus, public behaviors are changing. More Americans now than last month say they are willing to eat at a restaurant (59%, up from 41%), attend church (57%, up from 42%), or go shopping in a mall (53%, up from 38%). Still, Americans remain hesitant to fully resume normal activities, with only one-third (33%) saying they are willing to go to a gym or health club, and three in ten (29%) would attend a sporting event in a stadium.

One popular group activity hitting the front pages over the past several weeks: protests! According to Axios/Ipsos polling conducted June 5-8, one in ten Americans (11%) say that an immediate family member or close friend attended a protest or demonstration in the last week; two percent of Americans reporting doing so themselves. That doesn’t mean Americans see these protests as safe: most say they represent a large (62%) or moderate (24%) risk to their health, and half (50%) are extremely or very concerned about a spike in coronavirus cases as a result of the protests.

Japan

17,524 cases, 934 deaths

According to a June 5-7 Nikkei poll, the Japanese public is divided over the government’s response so far to the coronavirus, with 46 percent each giving the government positive and negative marks. That’s a shift from the last Nikkei poll (May 8-10), which found a majority of Japanese (55%) evaluating the government’s response negatively. Late last month, Prime Minister Abe announced the end of the state of emergency in the Tokyo metropolitan area, the last area along with Hokkaido to be subject to the order. Half of the public (50%) says that the government’s decision to lift the state of emergency on May 25 was appropriate, though 35 percent say it came too soon.

Despite the deep economic problems the coronavirus has brought to Japan, the public’s attention remains on public health. Yomiuri Shimbun polling from June 5-7 finds that in the event of a second wave of coronavirus infections, six in ten (61%) say the government’s response should protect the health of the people, while one-third (36%) say any emergency measures should carefully consider the economic impact. Thus far the public is not impressed with the government’s attempt to bolster Japan’s economy—providing 100,000 yen payments to residents of Japan—with two-thirds (64%) saying the government’s economic support measures are insufficient. According to a Nikkei poll, three-quarters of Japanese (73%) think the aid is coming too slowly.

The government is also attempting to promote a ‘new lifestyle’ which includes wearing masks, social distancing, and remote work where possible. The public seems to be on board at this point: Yomiuri polling finds nearly nine in ten Japanese (88%) say that they plan to continue the ‘new lifestyle’ of disease prevention. Despite that broad acceptance, small outbreaks continue. With Tokyo struggling to keep the number of new infections down (with nightlife areas proving to be a virus hotspot), Nikkei’s polling shows that public remains worried about the future: more than nine in ten Japanese say they are concerned about future coronavirus outbreaks (45% very concerned, 48% somewhat concerned).

South Korea

12,198 cases, 279 deaths

South Korea’s plans to re-open have been further delayed as fresh clusters of the virus continuing to emerge. There were 37 new cases on  June 15th,  bringing the total number of cases to 12,121 with  277 deaths. Public concern is slowly increasing  as the  government  struggles  to track  infection sources.

 Despite maintaining  a low number of  cases for weeks, these recent  outbreaks  have raised fears of a second wave.  The  Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported  618 new cases in the month of June with 10 percent of those cases  being untraceable to their source. These untraceable cases have coincided with small upticks in concern about the virus.  Recent Gallup Korea polling  shows  71 percent are worried about contracting the virus, a 4 percent increase from the previous poll  (67%). 

  While the government has determined  outbreaks are focused in religious facilities, nursing homes,  welfare centers, and businesses, it will be important in the coming weeks to see if small clusters can be contained and  if currently untraceable sources can be traced. 

France

194,347 cases, 34,405 deaths

Following protests in the United States, many French citizens have taken to the streets in solidarity to demonstrate against police brutality, with the focal point being the 2016 murder of Adama Traoré, a black French man who died at the hands of the police. While France has been reopening over the last several weeks, large gatherings are still prohibited due to coronavirus and many are concerned that large gatherings may lead to an uptick in coronavirus infections. An Odoxa poll conducted June 10-11 found that a majority of French people (55%) said that the calls to protests in France are not legitimate because the problems of police violence, like in the case of George Floyd, are much more relevant in the United States than in France.

At the same time, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released its projections for the French economy in 2020 on June 10. its projections for the French economy in 2020. According to the OECD’s projections, the real GDP of France’s economy will contract by 11.4 percent in 2020 and if there is a second wave of the virus, it could contract by as much as 14.1 percent. A large majority of French people have been concerned about the future of the economy since March. According to a June 11 poll by Opinionway, 81 percent of French respondents say that the economy will get worse in the coming months, down 9 percentage points from when it was first asked on March 23.

Italy

237,500 cases, 34,405 deaths

Italy continues its re-opening as new cases of COVID continue to drop. Cinemas, theaters, and summer camps for children are the most recent to reopen, with some regions even considering reopening bars and nightclubs. Beginning on June 15, Italy’s borders re-opened to visitors from the rest of Europe in the hopes of inviting tourists back to the country. Visitors from outside Europe are still banned except in cases of emergency. According to a public opinion survey from Ipsos, most Italians are optimistic about the coming months with 51 percent saying the worst of the pandemic has now passed. Despite this, only one-third of Italians (34%) say they will travel this summer, with 19 percent citing economic reasons and 17 percent citing fears of contagion as major deterrents.

A new contact-tracing app has now also become available for use by Italians. The Immuni app notifies users when a new case of the virus to which they may have had contact is discovered. The launch of the app was initially delayed over privacy concerns, with many thinking it would not be effective enough to warrant the constant tracking of Italian citizens. Results from the same Ipsos survey from this week mirror the uncertainty about the app, with 43 percent of Italians very or moderately likely to download the app and 38 percent not very or not at all likely to download it.

UK

299,600 cases, 42,054 deaths

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his administration are receiving pressure from Members of Parliament and UK businesses to lessen social distancing requirements, to end its 14-day quarantine rule, and to maintain their intention to reopen schools. However, a June 11-12 Opinium poll finds that a majority of Britons (51%) think that the government is coming out of lockdown too fast and larger majorities still feel uncomfortable riding the train or metro (75%), eating at a restaurant (63%), or working in an office (53%).

To alleviate fears about infection during commutes, the government has made mask-wearing compulsory on public transportation starting on July 15. Nonetheless, reports indicate that many are still failing to wear the mask. A June 11 poll from Redfield and Wilton found that 51 percent of British respondents reported that they haven’t worn a mask even once when leaving their home. Asked about whether the government has been consistent or not in its policy toward wearing masks, a large majority (70%) said that they had been inconsistent.

Meanwhile, the protests that originated in the United States following the death of George Floyd spread to the United Kingdom, with thousands demonstrating across the country. During a protest in Bristol on June 14, the statue of Edward Colston, a 17th and 18th century merchant and slave trader, was torn from its plinth and thrown into the Bristol Harbor. Despite the large attendance, many Britons are critical of the protests. Asked in the same Redfield and Wilton poll whether it is possible for protesters to maintain proper distancing and precautions to avoid spreading the virus, 69 percent said that it is not possible. More broadly, 59 percent of British respondents said that they do not think it is defensible for people to protest given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Germany

188,474 cases, 8,844 deaths

As borders throughout Europe re-open, the German government says its top priority is making sure summer travel does not lead to a second wave of the virus. If cases increase after Germans go on vacation, nationwide measures could be implemented. However, polling shows the German public is just as cautious as its government. In a survey conducted by YouGov, 43 percent of Germans say they will not be going on vacation, and only 9 percent say they would carry on with their summer plans as normal. Additionally, data from a survey from Der Spiegel shows that only 13 percent of Germans plan to travel by flight sometime in the next three months, and that 61 percent say they are currently afraid to get on a plane due to risk of infection.

In the hopes of preventing the possibility of a second major outbreak, the German government is fully supporting the release of a new app intended to track cases and warn users of potential contagion. While government officials say they realize the app will not end the threat of the disease spreading completely, they are hopeful that if enough people sign on to it, it will help in early detections of the virus and help interrupt infection chains. The German public also seems to be hopeful about the new app, with over 40 percent of people in a Der Spiegel survey saying they are interested in downloading it.

 

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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