Newswise — Rutgers scholar Katherine Ognyanova is available to comment on the latest Rutgers-Harvard-Northeastern survey data from The COVID-19 Consortium for Understanding the Public’s Policy Preferences Across States.

The researchers surveyed 18,132 people across all 50 states plus the District of Columbia from May 16 to May 31. The researchers polled participants about reopening the economy, following health guidelines, personal and economic impact, trust in government and the police, and information and misinformation about COVID-19.

To view the full report and findings, click here.

Among the findings:

  • Overall, 64% of respondents said their state government’s reaction to the outbreak is about right, while 15% think the state is overreacting, and 21% say the crisis needs to be taken more seriously. A considerably larger number, 46%, think the federal government is not taking the pandemic seriously enough.
  • Almost a third of our respondents (31%) say they would avoid going to restaurants for as long as possible even after stay-at-home restrictions are lifted. About 26% said they would dine out within two weeks of reopening, while 17% would wait more than a month. More than half of the survey participants (53%) suggest they would stay away from public transportation for as long as possible, and 23% said they would avoid going to retail stores.
  • Americans also differ in their attitude towards the information they encounter. About 41% believe all or most of the information they see about COVID-19 is accurate or trustworthy. Confidence in this information is closely related to behavior: the high-confidence group is more than 30 percentage points more likely to wear masks consistently or maintain social distancing, compared to those who say “none” or “very little” of the information is accurate.
  • More than 73% of white participants received a financial relief payment compared to 57% of African-Americans, 55% of Asian-Americans and 56% of Hispanic respondents. Those differences could stem from lower access to banking among non-white Americans, forcing them to wait longer for a check in the mail rather than receiving a bank account transfer.
  • Concerns about health, financial stability, job loss, and education are all higher among non-White respondents. The data reflect the fact that communities of color across the country are disproportionately affected by both health and economic problems related to the pandemic. The proportion of respondents worried about getting the virus is at least 12 points higher for other groups compared to White Americans. Less than a third (31%) of White respondents said they are “somewhat” or “very” concerned about losing their job, compared to over half of Hispanic (53%) and Asian Americans (51%), and 43% of African Americans.
  • Non-white Americans who are already more heavily affected by the crisis are also at a disadvantage when it comes to having accurate information on ways to prevent COVID-19. For every unproven preventive measure listed in the survey, misperceptions are higher among African American and Hispanic respondents than they are among Whites. The gaps between non-White and White Americans were largest regarding the effectiveness of flu vaccines and antibiotics, neither of which is helpful against COVID-19. White respondents are also generally less likely to say they were uncertain about the right answer.

Katherine Ognyanova is an assistant professor at Rutgers’ School of Communication and Information. She conducts research in network science, computational social science, social technology, media, civic and political communication.