Americans Rapidly Answering the Call to Isolate, Prepare


         After limited early adoption, majorities now avoiding routine interactions

         About half have stocked up on food, medical and household supplies

         Republicans still lag in social distancing; no differences by age


By Lydia Saad, GALLUP

March 20, 2020


WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In the span of a week, Americans have gone from tepid adoption of social distancing to majorities engaging in nearly every major practice advocated by government and health officials as ways to contain community spread of the novel coronavirus. But there is a long way to go to approach full compliance.


Gallup polling conducted March 13-15 and March 16-19 shows the biggest increases in social distancing occurring with those avoiding public places like grocery stores and restaurants (+24 percentage points to 54% doing this) and avoiding small social gatherings (+23 points to 46%).


Majorities last weekend were already avoiding traveling by airplane or mass transit and avoiding events with large crowds out of concern for coronavirus. But with 20-point jumps in these behaviors this week, more than 70% of Americans are now on board with them.


These findings are from a self-administered web survey using the Gallup Panel, a national probability-based panel of U.S. adults, 18 and older.


The trend shows Americans are moving less quickly to stockpile essential supplies, something that could be important in the event a household is quarantined due to illness, or if groceries and other supplies were to become scarce in the coming weeks and months. Just over half of Americans, 52%, say they have stocked up on food, medical or cleaning supplies as a safeguard from coronavirus disruption, up 13 points since the first polling period.


Most Americans who are not already adopting each social distancing measure are at least considering them. However, a quarter are still not considering avoiding small social gatherings, and about one in five are not considering stocking up on supplies.


Willingness to Comply With Shelter-in-Place Orders Also Grows


California, New York and Illinois are now under orders to stay at home as much as possible except for essential work and shopping activities.


Prior to these developments, about half of Americans (51%), up from 41% over the weekend, described themselves as very likely to comply if public health officials recommend everyone stay home for a month should there be a serious outbreak of coronavirus in their community.


Another 27% said they were somewhat likely to comply, while 23% were somewhat or very unlikely.


Despite Increased Distancing, Strong Partisan Differences Persist


The country is approaching universal adherence to avoidance of large crowds and travel, with more than seven in 10 adults of all age groups, all political parties and regions saying they are already eschewing these activities.


More variation is seen at the level of smaller interactions, including staying away from stores and restaurants and foregoing visits with friends and family. While more Americans across the societal spectrum are taking both precautions, women, residents of the Northeast, those living in high population density areas, and Democrats are more likely to be doing so than residents living in other regions, particularly the South and Midwest, in low-density areas, and Republicans.


Spectrum of Behavior Underscores Opportunity for Much More Distancing


Another Gallup Panel question asks respondents to characterize how much they are isolating themselves along a spectrum ranging from complete isolation to no attempt at isolation.


Just 17% say they are completely isolated, having no contact with people outside their household, while another 36% identify as "mostly isolated" -- meaning they are having very little outside contact. The combined 53% of these two responses matches the percentage separately saying they are avoiding public places.


At the other end of the spectrum, 26% describe themselves as isolated only a little or not at all, leaving 21% in the middle who are "partially isolated."


document, plus tables [6]