Survey: More US Adults want the government to have a bigger role in improving peoples' lives than before the pandemic

October 15, 2020

The share of U.S. adults who support an active government role in society increased by more than 40 percent during the initial pandemic response--up from 24 percent in September 2019 to 34 percent in April 2020--according to a new national public opinion survey conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins University SNF Agora Institute.

The survey, fielded April 7 through April 13, 2020, also found that, among U.S. adults who endorsed a strong government role in society, a majority supported health, unemployment, and income-related policies aimed at bolstering the social safety net for vulnerable groups in society.

The findings, to be published online October 15 in the American Journal of Public Health, measured public support for social safety net policies during the initial outbreak of the novel coronavirus to assess how public support was associated with beliefs about the role of government.

Among the adults who supported a stronger government role, 88 percent supported two-weeks paid sick leave, 80 percent supported increased minimum federal wage, 77 percent supported employment education and training as unemployment benefits, and 73 percent supported universal health insurance.

"Critical safety net policies passed in the initial phase of the pandemic are expiring or have expired, and finding common ground on extending them has proved difficult," says the lead author, Colleen L. Barry, PhD, MPP, Fred and Julie Soper Professor and Chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Bloomberg School. "An awareness on the part of policymakers of heightened support for the government aiding individuals and families who have experienced pandemic-related dislocations could make a difference."

In the initial phase of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., 22 million individuals filed for unemployment benefits and an estimated 9.2 million lost their employer-based health insurance. On March 18, 2020, the U.S. Congress quickly passed the Families First Coronavirus

Response Act, which is in effect through December 2020, and included paid sick days and other leave benefits related to COVID-19. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economics Security (CARES) Act offers tax credits to support worker retention and is in effect through January 1, 2021. In addition, the CARES Act had increased unemployment benefits by an extra $600 per week through July 31, 2020 to workers affected by the pandemic. Efforts by Congress to extend these expanded unemployment benefits have repeatedly stalled.

The survey, fielded using NORC's Amerispeak Panel, drew from a nationally representative sample of 1,468 U.S. adults. The respondents were asked about their support for 11 safety net policies such as paid sick leave and universal health insurance; income support and unemployment policies; tax credits for businesses; and employment education and training.

The survey found that a majority of U.S. adults strongly supported seven of the 11 social safety net policies. Among the findings:The researchers found less support for single payer health insurance, 47 percent; government-funded paid sick leave, 39 percent; and government-funded family leave, 48 percent. There was also less support for universal basic income, at 39 percent.

"As Congress debates continued relief for Americans suffering health and economic consequences from the pandemic, our data shows there is growing support for passing the kind of policies that they have been unable to pass in the last few months," says co-author Hahrie Han, PhD, director of the SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University.

"Public Support for Social Safety-Net Policies for Covid-19 in the US, April 2020" was written by Colleen Barry, Hahrie Han, Rachel Presskreischer, Kelly Anderson, and Emma McGinty.
The research was supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (T32HS000029) and the National Institute of Mental Health (T32MH109436) and, for the survey data collection, by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health

Related Public Health Articles from Brightsurf:

COVID-19 and the decolonization of Indigenous public health
Indigenous self-determination, leadership and knowledge have helped protect Indigenous communities in Canada during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, and these principles should be incorporated into public health in future, argue the authors of a commentary in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal)

Public health consequences of policing homelessness
In a new study examining homelessness, researchers find that policy such a lifestyle has massive public health implications, making sleeping on the street even MORE unhealthy.

Electronic health information exchange improves public health disease reporting
Disease tracking is an important area of focus for health departments in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pandemic likely to cause long-term health problems, Yale School of Public Health finds
The coronavirus pandemic's life-altering effects are likely to result in lasting physical and mental health consequences for many people--particularly those from vulnerable populations--a new study led by the Yale School of Public Health finds.

The Lancet Public Health: US modelling study estimates impact of school closures for COVID-19 on US health-care workforce and associated mortality
US policymakers considering physical distancing measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 face a difficult trade-off between closing schools to reduce transmission and new cases, and potential health-care worker absenteeism due to additional childcare needs that could ultimately increase mortality from COVID-19, according to new modelling research published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Access to identification documents reflecting gender identity may improve trans mental health
Results from a survey of over 20,000 American trans adults suggest that having access to identification documents which reflect their identified gender helps to improve their mental health and may reduce suicidal thoughts, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Study estimates mental health impact of welfare reform, Universal Credit, in Great Britain
The 2013 Universal Credit welfare reform appears to have led to an increase in the prevalence of psychological distress among unemployed recipients, according to a nationally representative study following more than 52,000 working-age individuals from England, Wales, and Scotland over nine years between 2009-2018, published as part of an issue of The Lancet Public Health journal on income and health.

BU researchers: Pornography is not a 'public health crisis'
Researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) have written an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health special February issue arguing against the claim that pornography is a public health crisis, and explaining why such a claim actually endangers the health of the public.

The Lancet Public Health: Ageism linked to poorer health in older people in England
Ageism may be linked with poorer health in older people in England, according to an observational study of over 7,500 people aged over 50 published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

Study: Public transportation use linked to better public health
Promoting robust public transportation systems may come with a bonus for public health -- lower obesity rates.

Read More: Public Health News and Public Health Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to