New poll underscores how coronavirus pandemic attitudes differ by race

Fifty-one percent of nonwhite adults say they are very worried that either they or a relative will be exposed to the coronavirus, compared to 29 percent of whites.
Image: Healthcare workers meet at a COVID-19 drive-thru testing site in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Healthcare workers meet at a COVID-19 drive-thru testing site in St. Petersburg, Fla., on July 8, 2020.Octavio Jones / Getty Images

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By Ben Kamisar

WASHINGTON — People of color in America are far more likely to have serious worries about the coronavirus's effect on their families and their economic situations than whites, according to new data from an NBC News/SurveyMonkey Weekly Tracking Poll.

Fifty-one percent of nonwhite adults say they are "very" worried that they or a relative will be exposed to the virus, compared to just 29 percent of whites. Overall, a combined 79 percent of nonwhites in America say they're "very" or at least "somewhat" worried about exposure, versus 65 percent of white adults.

Broken down by race, 78 percent of Blacks, 82 percent of Hispanics and 82 percent of Asians said they are very or somewhat concerned about their families' exposure to the virus.

White and nonwhite Americans also express different levels of anxiety about the economic impact of the virus.

Fifty-six percent of nonwhites say they're very worried that the outbreak will negatively affect their households' finances — including 55 percent of Blacks, 59 percent of Hispanics and 53 percent of Asians.

By contrast, just one-third of whites share that view (60 percent of white adults say their personal economic situations are excellent or good, while just 36 percent of nonwhites say the same).

White adults are also more likely to view the outbreak as more of an economic crisis than a health crisis for the country as a whole than nonwhite adults.

And 86 percent of nonwhite adults are worried about a potential second wave of the coronavirus, compared to 74 percent of white adults.

Public health officials, politicians and the like have been concerned about the inequality surrounding the pandemic, particularly as protests for racial justice have shined a spotlight on the issue of race in America. Black and Latino communities have been hit particularly harddata from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that nonwhite patients make up a disproportionate number of those hospitalized with COVID-19, even when controlled for age.

The racial divide also extends to how people view their political leadership.

White adults approve of President Donald Trump's handling of the federal response by a 3-point margin (51 percent approve, while 48 percent disapprove). But just 28 percent of nonwhites approve of his response, compared to 68 percent who disapprove.

Black adults are the least likely to approve of Trump's response — 17 percent of Blacks, 32 percent of Hispanics and 35 percent of Asians approve of how the president has handled the response.

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Overall, 44 percent of adults approve of Trump's response, and 55 percent disapprove. That's virtually identical to his overall approval rating in the poll, with 44 percent approving and 54 percent disapproving of his performance as president.

White adults are twice as likely to trust Trump to decide when to open businesses in their areas over their governors than nonwhite adults are. But a clear majority of all adults, 69 percent, trust their governors more to make those decisions, compared to the 27 percent who prefer that Trump decide.

These data come from a set of SurveyMonkey online polls conducted July 6-12, 2020, among a national sample of 53,106 adults in the U.S. Respondents were selected from the more than 2 million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. The modeled error estimate for this survey is plus or minus 1.0 percentage points. Data have been weighted for age, race, sex, education and geography using the Census Bureau's American Community Survey to reflect the demographic composition of the United States ages 18 and over.