Public Agenda/USA TODAY/Ipsos Hidden Common Ground Second Survey on Coronavirus Focuses on Reopening America

Majority Agree on the Need to Reboot the Economy Slowly and Carefully

New York, NY (June 3, 2020) The second coronavirus Public Agenda Hidden Common GroundTM snapshot survey, “Checking in with Americans on Reopening their Communities,” found that over three-quarters of Americans (77 percent) feel that the economy should reopen at a slow pace and with safety measures to avoid spreading the virus. This sentiment spanned majorities regardless of political affiliation, with Republicans (69 percent), Democrats (86 percent) and Independents (76 percent). 

The survey was conducted prior to protests against police violence that have occurred across the nation. The next Hidden Common Ground, to be released in June, will address the topic of race and policing in America. Read Public Agenda’s “Reflections on Recent Events.” As current events in this country continue to shift quickly, Public Agenda is working to find the hidden common ground.

“Our research shows substantial cross-partisan agreement on how to respond to COVID-19,” said Will Friedman, President of Public Agenda. “Certainly there are differences of opinion, but most are matters of emphasis rather than yawning gaps.”

In fact, nearly two thirds of the 1,004 Americans surveyed (62 percent) say there is more common ground on how to address the coronavirus among the American people than the news media and political leaders portray, including 72 percent of Republicans, 57 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of Independents.

As the country considers reopening in response to the coronavirus, there is a beat of cautious optimism. A plurality of Americans (48 percent) think their community will suffer in the short term but recover in the long term. More say their community will emerge stronger than ever (15 percent) than say it will never recover (6 percent). These findings are similar to those found in Public Agenda’s  March survey, “Hidden Common Ground: Community Responses to the Coronavirus.”

“A plurality of people believe the impacts from the coronavirus on their communities will not be permanent,” said David Schleifer, Vice President and Director of Research at Public Agenda. “Most Americans support various common-sense approaches to reopening, including majority cross-partisan support for wearing face coverings in public.”

In Public Agenda’s second month of tracking opinions about coronavirus, Americans’ focus has begun to shift somewhat toward the challenge of opening up the economy. Most Americans (62 percent) still think the government’s priority should be preventing the virus from spreading and keeping people from getting sick or dying. However, this is a drop of ten percentage points from findings in March. The May survey found that almost a third of Americans think the government’s main priority should be keeping the economy strong in order to avoid a recession (29 percent, up eight percentage points from the March survey). 

Across partisan lines, more Americans think that decisions about when and how to reopen economies should be primarily made by state governments, rather than the federal government or local governments.

  • Two in five Americans (42 percent) think state governments should decide when and how to reopen economies, while 20 percent say local governments should make decisions about reopening. 
  • Only 16 percent of Americans say the federal government should take the lead, a stark indicator of lack of faith in the federal government. Even fewer think reopening should be up to individuals or businesses (11 percent).
  • Half of Americans agree that their state’s response has been less politicized than the federal government response. 

Only about one-third of Americans overall indicate thinking that restrictions and closures have been too severe. But just over half of Republicans (54 percent) think so compared to only 21 percent of Democrats and 31 percent of Independents. 

When asked about face coverings, a majority of Americans (77 percent) support the idea that people should wear face coverings in public, including 67 percent of Republicans, 87 percent of Democrats and 75 percent of Independents. Majorities across party lines also support social distancing in stores, restaurants and other service industries, as well as supporting self-quarantining for people who may have been exposed to the virus. 

These are the findings of a Public Agenda/USA Today/Ipsos poll conducted between May 22-26, 2020. For this survey, a sample of 1,004 adults age 18+ from the continental U.S., Alaska, and Hawaii was interviewed online in English. The poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for all respondents.

Read the full report: Hidden Common GroundTM Snapshot Survey: Checking in with Americans on Reopening their Communities.

Hidden Common Ground is an initiative spearheaded by Public Agenda and USA Today and whose partners include America Amplified, the National Issues ForumIpsos, and Vote.org. It is supported by a diverse group of foundations, including the John S. and James L. Knight Foundationthe Charles Koch Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, as well as by individual donors. The Kettering Foundation serves as a research partner to the initiative. The aim is to explore the possibility that there is more common ground among the public on solutions to today’s issues than is typically acknowledged and leveraged for the common good, and, to the extent this is true, to elevate that common ground in the public discourse during the election year. Forthcoming Hidden Common Ground 2020 studies will explore race and policing, immigration, voting, and economic opportunity. 

About Public Agenda

Public Agenda is a nonpartisan research and public engagement organization dedicated to a healthy, just, and effective democracy. We support informed citizens, engaged communities, and responsive public institutions. We also elevate diverse voices, build common ground and foster progress on issues of concern to the American public. These include K-12 education, higher education, health care, economic opportunity, and democracy reform. Find Public Agenda online at PublicAgenda.org, and on social media at FB@publicagenda/Twitter@publicagenda/Instagram@publicagenda_.


Founded in 1982, USA TODAY reflects the pulse of the nation, serving as host of the American conversation by delivering high-quality, engaging content through unique visual storytelling across all platforms. A media innovator, USA TODAY reaches nearly 100 million unique visitors each month across digital platforms, with more than 125 million downloads of our award-winning app. USA TODAY also remains the nation’s number one newspaper and is owned by Gannett Co., Inc. (NYSE: GCI).