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American trust in COVID-19 information from federal and state/local government is trending downward

Jun 4, 2020
3 MIN. READ

Editor’s Note (6/3/2020): This article includes findings from our third wave of data collection that fielded May 18 through May 20. The third wave collected another 1,000 completes using a census-balanced, national non-probability sample. The new information, shared below, examines American attitudes toward slowing the spread of COVID-19, as well as their trust in government to deal with the current crisis. Learn more about the ICF COVID-19 Monitor Survey of U.S. Adults.

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As we revealed in our initial trust and mitigation findings (Wave 1), Americans trusted the information coming from public health experts and supported measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in late March. How has sentiment changed? Do Americans feel more or less confident in the government’s response to the pandemic? Are they following recommendations from public health experts? This article takes another look at public perception, more than two months after the start of the crisis. 

Trust in COVID-19 information provided by federal and state/local governments decreased.

American trust in the coronavirus-related information provided by federal and state/local government has steadily decreased over the past three months. Trust in the federal government has seen the largest decrease (10.8% since March) compared to state/local government (7.8% since March). Similarly trust in public health experts also decreased in May compared to March and April. However, despite these decreases, the majority of Americans still trust the information coming from the government and public health experts.

American trust in government information is decreasing

Confidence in government and agencies to deal with COVID-19 also dwindled in April.

Relatedly, American confidence in government and government agencies dealing with COVID-19 has also decreased across three months. For context, at the time of fielding Wave 3, there had been more than 1.5 million positive tests results for COVID-19 in the United States and more than 90,000 deaths. Confidence in the federal government has seen the largest decrease (7.2%). But again, the majority of Americans still have confidence in federal, state, and local governments, as well as the CDC, to deal with the pandemic.

American confidence in government and government agencies has decreased

American emphasis on the importance of mitigation efforts decreased in May. 

Our Wave 3 findings showed that American support of government measures to reduce the spread of the virus changed considerably in May. The proportion of adults who felt that closing schools was very important to stop the spread of the virus dropped from 79% in March, and 73% in April, to 57% in May. The proportion who considered it very important to close public places, like malls and theaters, fell from 76% in March and 72% in April, to 55% in May. While a majority felt it was very important to close non-essential businesses in March (62%) and April (56%), only a minority (39%) felt so in May. Despite the decrease in “very important” responses, the majority of respondents still reported these measures were either “somewhat important” or “very important.” However, this decrease in the emphasis of importance should be noted.

Americans wore face masks more often in May. They increasingly view wearing face masks as important to stopping the spread of COVID-19.

Despite decreases in the perceived importance of the mitigation measures detailed above, American perceptions of the importance of wearing face masks, as well as their behaviors, has increased since March.

For context, on April 3rd, the CDC recommended that to slow the spread of coronavirus, nearly everyone should wear a face covering when out in public. Both use and perceived importance of wearing face masks has steadily increased over the past three months.

Americans increasingly view wearing face masks as important to stopping the spread of COVID-19
Americans wore face masks more often in May

Watch this space

How will American trust in government change as the summer season kicks off and the pandemic continues? We will report key findings from our data collection efforts over the coming weeks and share this information with agencies and public health officials in support of their response to COVID-19. Sign up to receive alerts as we roll out upcoming results and package our insights into reports.

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