Today’s Washington Post poll raises a tough question that will likely become the hallmark of our public engagement for the next couple of years at least. Does discomfort mean opposition, or just dread, in terms of getting back to normal economic “intercourse,” as Joe Biden puts it these days? The data from this poll paints a very pessimistic picture of the American consumer, which has economic considerations all on its own, but it also seems to blur the line between opposition and an absence of enthusiasm — at times, anyway.
This is evident from the Post’s opening paragraphs in its report:
Americans clearly oppose the reopening of restaurants, retail stores and other businesses, even as governors begin to lift restrictions that have kept the economy locked down in an effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic, according to a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll.
The opposition expressed by sizable majorities of Americans reflects other cautions and concerns revealed in the survey, including continuing fears among most people that they could become infected by the coronavirus, as well as a belief that the worst of the medical crisis is not yet over.
About half of states have eased restrictions on businesses, but Americans’ unease about patronizing them represents a major hurdle to restarting the economy. Many Americans have been making trips to grocery stores and 56 percent say they are comfortable doing so. But 67 percent say they would be uncomfortable shopping at a retail clothing store, and 78 percent would be uncomfortable eating at a sit-down restaurant. People in states with looser restrictions report similar levels of discomfort as those in states with stricter rules.