The Pew Research Center’s late April report on COVID-19’s economic impact provides both a snapshot of what American are thinking and the shape of things to come.
Based on the responses of 4,917 adults for a survey conducted between April 7 and 12, the report, “Positive Economic Views Plummet; Support for Government Aid Crosses Party Lines,” assessed the respondents’ sentiment that U.S. economy is deteriorating with “extraordinary speed and severity.”
That sense was linked to the record of unemployment claims and the major disruption of commercial activity caused by the virus outbreak.
According to the report created by Pew Center’s American Trends Panel, “Just 23 percent of the Americans now rate economic conditions in the country as excellent or good, down sharply from 57 percent at the start of the year. Most now say the economy is in either only fair (38 percent) or poor (38 percent) shape. In January, just 19 percent of Americans said economic conditions were poor.”
The report adds “most Americans believe the economic problems arising from the coronavirus outbreak will persist for months to come. A majority (71 percent) says the economic problems resulting from the outbreak will last for at least six months, including 39 percent who say they will last a year or more. Just 29 percent expect these problems to last six months or less.”
An additional finding is that as the public confronts a grim new economic reality, “there is not only overwhelming support for the massive economic aid package passed last month by President Donald Trump and Congress, but also widespread belief that an additional aid package will be needed.
“Nearly nine-in-ten U.S. adults say the $2 trillion economic aid package passed in March was the right thing to do, including identical majorities of Republicans and Democrats (89 percent each). More than three-quarters (77 percent) think it will be necessary for the president and Congress to pass legislation providing additional economic assistance.”
And a majority felt the aid package enacted in March will do “a great deal or a fair amount to help a range of actors, including large businesses, small businesses, state and local governments, and unemployed people.”
Only 49 percent expect it to benefit self-employed people, while 46 percent said it will help their own household a great deal or fair amount. “This reflects the fact that lower-income adults are far more likely than more affluent people to say the aid package will benefit them. A 59 percent majority of those in lower-income households believe the federal aid will help them, compared with just 22 percent in upper-income households.”
The researchers noted that the current survey finds that the public’s reactions to the recently passed economic aid package different from the views of the economic stimulus plan enacted during the early months of Barack Obama’s presidency.
As the report notes, views of the economy were even more negative than they are today, but this year’s stimulus package was better received.
“In March 2009, 56 percent said the $800 billion stimulus plan put forth by Barack Obama and passed by Congress was a good idea; about a third (35 percent) said it was a bad idea. While the question about the economic package passed in March (2020) differs somewhat, 88 percent of the public says it was the right thing to do.”
Yet despite today’s economic conditions, the report finds “the public does expect some improvement over time,” and “a majority (55 percent) expects that economic conditions in the country as a whole will be better a year from now than they are today, while 22 percent say they will be worse and 22 percent expect conditions to be about the same as they are now.”