While the issue of how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 continues to be highly politicized, a new survey by the American Psychological Association shows a consensus among Republicans and Democrats: A majority of Republicans (65 percent) and Democrats (88 percent) report that they find preventive measures like wearing masks and physical distancing to be reassuring, and agree that it is stressful to be around others when they do not take these steps (66 percent Republicans, 87 percent Democrats).
Unpredictability is causing stress across the aisle
Meanwhile, the unpredictability in our nation is causing stress across party lines as well. Most adults from both parties say the current amount of uncertainty in our nation causes them stress (67 percent Republicans, 76 percent Democrats), and similar proportions cite the political climate as a significant source of stress in their life (62 percent Republicans, 77 percent Democrats).
“As our nation continues to grapple with so much adversity, it is reassuring to see that we stand united on important issues that will help our nation heal,” said Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, APA’s chief executive officer, in a news release. “The coronavirus doesn’t recognize political boundaries, so our country will be best served if we come together in a bipartisan effort in this historic fight to overcome the pandemic—a common enemy.”
Stress in America 2020: Stress in the Time of COVID-19, Volume Three, was conducted by The Harris Poll from June 23 to July 6; the online survey included 3,010 adults age 18+ who reside in the United States. This is APA’s third “pulse check” of the nation’s stress and mental health to gauge the impact of the pandemic and civil unrest. The previous surveys were released in May and June.
Many individuals from both parties agree that people are acting as if the coronavirus pandemic is over (75 percent Republicans, 86 percent Democrats). Although two-thirds of Democrats (66 percent) and Republicans (71 percent) say they are confident they can protect themselves from coronavirus once the U.S. reopens, more than half of U.S. adults (58 percent) wish they had more information about how to keep themselves and/or their family healthy as the U.S. reopens.
While average reported stress levels related to the coronavirus pandemic have remained generally consistent over the past three months (5.7 in June–July, 5.6 in May–June, 5.9 in April–May), the proportion of Americans reporting certain negative feelings as a result of the coronavirus pandemic has increased significantly. Specifically, Americans are more likely to report feeling frustrated (40 percent June–July, 31 percent May–June, 31 percent April–May), scared (24 percent June–July, 16 percent May–June, 19 percent April–May), and angry (18 percent June–July, 13 percent May–June, 12 percent April–May) than they were three months ago.
“As the consistent stress endured since the start of the pandemic evolves into more intense negative emotions, we are reminded that the mental health of our nation continues to suffer severe consequences as a result of the trauma of the times,” said Evans. “The path toward recovery will take time and needs to be addressed on a system-wide level by increasing access to mental health services and supports and on an individual basis through self-care.”
As infection rates continue to increase in a majority of states, around 2 in 3 Americans (66 percent) say getting COVID-19 is a significant source of stress in their lives, which is significantly more than said the same in May–June (61 percent). Furthermore, the regional representation of this stressor seems to mirror the spread of the virus, with the proportion of adults citing this stressor generally rising across the Midwest, South, and West (Midwest: 63 percent June–July, 57 percent May–June, 56 percent April–May; South: 68 percent June–July, 66 percent May–June, 65 percent April–May; West: 68 percent June–July, 56 percent May–June, 64 percent April–May), while declining in the former epicenter in the Northeast (61 percent June–July, 61 percent May–June, 70 percent April–May).
The survey also provided updates on the state of stress related to aspects of racial injustice. Sixty percent of Americans say police violence toward minorities is a significant source of stress. This number has nearly doubled since 2016, when 36 percent said the same in that year’s Stress in America survey when APA first started tracking this data point. Moreover, nearly two-thirds of Americans (64 percent) report the government response to the protests following the death of George Floyd is a significant source of stress. On a positive note, more than 3 in 5 U.S. adults (63 percent) agree the current movement against systemic racism and police brutality is going to lead to meaningful change in America.
Wave 3 of the COVID Tracker was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of the American Psychological Association between June 23 and July 6, 2020, among 3,010 adults age 18+ who reside in the U.S. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. Data were weighted to reflect their proportions in the population based on the 2019 Current Population Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau.