Who is most informed about COVID?

This week we investigate vaccine and COVID knowledge, schools and the pandemic, climate change, the Build Back Better bill, personal finances and gun ownership.

The author(s)

  • Catherine Morris Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs
  • Sarah Feldman Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs
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November 2— Being concerned about COVID-19 is strongly related to identifying misinformation about the virus and vaccine. As the school year is now well underway, parents are less likely to feel schooling is as disruptive as it was to their lives last year.

Plus, we explore what would make consumers' financial situation more comfortable, along with gun ownership stats, views on the big pieces of infrastructure and social spending legislation working their way through Congress, and the importance of climate change over time for Americans.

Stories this week-

Who is most informed about COVID?

People who are more concerned about COVID-19 are more likely to perform better on knowledge tests about the virus and vaccine, analysis from the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index finds.

For example, nearly all people who are extremely or very concerned about COVID-19 correctly identify this statement as true, "Masks have been shown to limit the spread of COVID-19 from person to person." Only 39% of people who report not being worried about COVID believe this is correct.

Even for statements where most people can correctly identify a piece of information as true, some gaps in knowledge remain. Three in four people who aren’t concerned about COVID correctly believe that people can spread the virus even if they don’t have symptoms. Meanwhile, 94% of people who are extremely or very concerned say this is true.

People not closely following Congress aren’t sure how bills will affect them

Americans are split on how the infrastructure and social spending bills moving through Congress will affect people like them, with partisanship acting as a driving force behind public opinion.

Additionally, how closely people follow the congressional negotiations influences whether people hold any opinion on these bills. Over two in five people who are not following these bills closely don’t know how this legislation will affect people like them. Only 9% of people following Congress closely are unsure how the infrastructure and social spending bills will affect people like them.

Again, partisanship is a confounding variable here. Independents are the least likely to be following the negotiations in Congress, while Democrats and Republicans are equally likely to be following the politics of these bills.

Yet regardless of whether people are paying attention to the negotiations, more Americans feel that these bills would hurt more than they would help people like them.

Climate change rises in prominence

As global leaders convene in Glasgow for the UN Climate Change conference, one in ten Americans point to the environment and climate as the most important issue facing the United States today. While it is still viewed as a secondary or even tertiary issue, this marks a considerable increase from 2012, when just 1% on average said it was the country’s most urgent problem.

Since 2019, perceptions that the environment is the most pressing issue have typically spiked towards the end of summer, during hurricane and wildfire season. And while COVID distracted the public in 2020, the environment is once again a growing area of focus. Compared to other countries, concern about the climate is relatively high in the US; according to a global study carried out across 28 countries, the US is tied for sixth place overall in levels of concern about climate change.

Schooling this year seen as less disruptive by parents

Between this year and the last, there’s been a notable drop in the number of parents of school-age kids who feel their child’s schooling experience is disrupting their lives.

The latest tracking data from the Ipsos Consumer Tracker finds half of parents feel their child’s school experience has been disruptive. At roughly the same time last year, three in four parents felt the same. Back in 2020, fathers, people living in cities, and those making over $100k per year were more likely to say that their child’s schooling experience was disruptive to them.

Driving this year-over-year change in sentiment among parents might be parents’ clear-eyed attitude toward COVID and schooling. A USA Today/Ipsos poll from early September found that while parents were supportive of returning their children to school five days a week in-person, an equal share also felt that their children’s school would close again the upcoming school year because of COVID.

Higher wages would improve personal financial outlook the most

 Around two in five say they are comfortable with their personal financial situation today, compared to the 32% who say they are uncomfortable. Another 27% say they land somewhere in the middle. Overall, regardless of where they stand on their personal economic situation, certain things would lead to a greater improvement in outlook – namely, COVID cases dropping nationally and higher wages.

Yet perspectives shift when individuals’ relative degree of economic stability is brought into consideration. Those who are uncomfortable with their economic situation are substantially more likely to say that higher wages would change how they feel, compared to people who are comfortable financially. At the same time, an improvement in the basic costs of living, such as less credit card debt and lower rent, would make as much of a difference to the uncomfortable group as a drop in COVID cases would.

Who feels most economically secure follows predictable lines. More highly educated people and those with higher incomes tend are more likely to report feeling comfortable with the personal economic situation; the reverse is true for the less affluent and those who did not earn a post-secondary degree.

Regardless of where they live, Republicans are most likely to own a gun

One in three Americans report being gun owners, though that varies depending on where people live and what party they support.

Overall, Republicans are more likely to own a gun than Democrats or Independents, regardless of where they live. Over half of rural Republicans own at least one gun, while half (47%) of Republicans who live in suburban or urban settings own a gun. By comparison, only 30% of Democrats, who live rural or suburban areas, own a gun, while that number drops to just one in five among Democrats who live in a city. Rural Independents are about as likely to own a gun as Republicans who live in a city.

The author(s)

  • Catherine Morris Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs
  • Sarah Feldman Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs