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Poll: Two-Thirds Expect Return To Normal Will Take 6 Months Or More

Daniel Slim AFP via Getty Images
Shoppers wear masks at Eastern Market in Washington, D.C., on May 17. An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds that most Americans think it will take at least six months to return to normal daily life.

Two-thirds of Americans do not expect their daily lives to return to normal for at least six months, and as states reopen, three-quarters are concerned that a second wave of coronavirus cases will emerge, a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist pollfinds.

"There's a great sense that normalcy is not around the corner," said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, which conducted the poll.

He pointed out that with states reopening — some outside federal guidelines for doing so — there's "a real disconnect between public opinion and public policy."


Since the coronavirus pandemic hit, Americans have also grown more wary of voting in person. Half of them now say they would vote by mail if it's allowed by their state, according to the poll. About a quarter of Americans voted by mail in the 2016 general election, Miringoff noted.

On Wednesday, Trump took aim at Michiganand Nevadafor taking steps toward increasing voting by mail in this year's elections. The president accused them of potentially trying to engage in voter fraud, falsely claiming that ballot applications were sent illegally. (Trump deleted an earlier tweet that accused Michigan of sending actual absentee ballots.)

He also threatened to put a hold on coronavirus relief funds to both states. It's not clear if the president has the authority to stop those funds; states run elections, not the federal government.

Clearly, how to respond to the coronavirus crisis has become political. Wide political splits have emerged even in regards to when people expect life to return to normal, how worried they are about a new outbreak and whether to vote by mail.

When will we return to normal?


While a majority of Republicans (55%) agree that they don't expect life to return to normal for at least six months and 57% are concerned about a second coronavirus wave, they are more optimistic that life will return to normal sooner and less worried about a second outbreak than Democrats and independents are.

Don't see the graphic above? Click here.

Overall, 65% of Americans polled said they don't expect life to return to normal for at least six months, including 78% of Democrats and 68% of independents.

The most pessimistic about when life will return to normal — not for at least six months — were Democrats; African Americans (75%); college graduates (70%); white women with a college degree (70%); and Gen Xers, those 39 to 54 years old (70%).

The most likely to say less than six months were Republicans and Latinos (both 42%).

The coronavirus is disproportionately affecting black and Latino communities, both in terms of hospitalization rates and in job losses.

Wide concerns about a second outbreak

As for being concerned about a second outbreak, 77% of Americans polled said they are concerned or very concerned about one, including 93% of Democrats and 76% of independents.

"The overwhelming majority feel we're in no way out of the woods," Miringoff said. "The notion that there's the potential or likelihood of a second wave is strong, and we see that clearly across party lines."

Don't see the graphic above? Click here.

The most concerned were Democrats, African Americans (86%), women (83%) and Latinos (81%), even though Latinos were more optimistic than Democrats or African Americans about when life would get back to normal.

Less likely to be concerned were Republicans (57%); white men without a college degree (68%); those in the Silent or Greatest generations, over age 73 (69%); those who live in rural areas (69%); and men generally (70%).

Big vote-by-mail splits. Who won't be voting?

And there's a divide on voting by mail: A majority of Republicans (56%) would rather cast their ballots in person than by mail (42%), whereas 61% of Democrats and 53% of independents prefer voting by mail this November.

Don't see the graphic above? Click here.

The most likely to want to vote by mail were white women with a college degree (64%), whites with a college degree (62%), those who live in the West (62%) and Democrats (61%). Western states have been voting by mail for many election cycles.

Among those most likely to say they want to vote in person are Republicans (56%), those in the South (45%), white women without a college degree (44%), those 45 and older (44%), whites (42%) and people without a college degree (40%).

Some 10% say they do not intend to vote, which the pollsters indicate is about what would be expected, but the groups with the highest percentages of members who say they won't vote cut across key pillars in both parties: Gen Z and millennials, ages 18 to 38 (19%); Latinos (16%); suburban men (13%); those without a college degree (13%); white men without a degree (12%); and African Americans (11%).

The survey of 1,007 adults was conducted by The Marist Poll via landline and cell phone from May 12 to 17. Data collection and weighting was provided by SSRS. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.6 percentage points.

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