The pandemic has not demonstrably shifted views on the connection between race and health among those most affected by COVID-19, despite communities of color and those with lower incomes being hit the hardest.
Many see COVID-19 as a moment for change, with improving access to health care as the shift they most want to see.
COVID-19 has upended the lives of people living in the United States, but some groups are facing more challenges than others. This ongoing survey from RAND Corporation attempts to understand the views and values of those who are most at risk to the adverse impacts of COVID-19 by surveying people with lower and middle incomes with a focus on communities of color. It measures the attitudes of the same group of respondents over a year with four waves of collection.
Between COVID-19 and calls for racial justice, 2020 appeared to be a turning point for tackling the root causes of inequities in health. Findings from the first, second, and third waves of the survey show that many people—even those who may have been hit hardest by the pandemic and long-standing inequities—still do not see systemic racism as a barrier to good health.
People are becoming less worried about health risks and are increasingly ready to return to normal life. In each wave of the survey, more respondents are supportive of reopening the economy despite the risk of spreading COVID-19. While we cannot pinpoint what is driving this change, this trend may be attributed to expanded knowledge about COVID-19 and how to prevent its spread, optimism related to vaccine availability, pandemic fatigue, or other factors.
There are reasons to be hopeful. More than two-thirds of respondents believe the pandemic presents a moment for positive change. Expanding access to health care is the most cited change they want to see, followed by protecting our freedom, and increasing flexibility in how we work.
Note: Findings thus far are based on Wave 1, 2, and 3 reports.
- Most people surveyed—nearly 60 percent of respondents—still do not see systemic racism as a barrier to good health. This was even true for those who may have been hit hardest by the pandemic and long-standing inequities.
- Respondents’ willingness to risk their own health to return to “normal” has risen by six percent since Summer 2020.
- About a third of respondents believe that reopening the economy is worth the risk to public health. Support for this statement among Black respondents was lower than other racial and ethnic groups.
- More than 70 percent of respondents see the pandemic as a moment for positive change. Black and Hispanic respondents are also more likely than White respondents to endorse this statement.
- The most important changes that respondents would like to see society make in response to COVID are expanding access to health care, protecting our freedom, and increasing flexibility in how we work.
- Nearly two-thirds of respondents believe the government should ensure health care as a fundamental right. White respondents are less likely to endorse this statement.
- Confidence in the federal government’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted since Fall 2020. While trust in the federal government overall went up by 15 percent, many respondents that previously reported high levels of trust now are less confident in the federal pandemic response and vice versa.
The final wave of findings will be available Summer 2021.
About the Survey
The COVID-19 and the Experiences of Populations at Greater Risk survey is a national poll measuring attitudes, views and values toward health, equity, civic engagement and systemic racism during COVID-19. This longitudinal survey is following the same group of people over time, with a sample size of more than 4,000 people.
This is a nationally representative sample of adults living in lower and middle income households (with household incomes less than $125,000) and includes oversamples of Black, Hispanic and Asian Americans. The household income limits allowed us to focus on individuals in households that were likely eligible to receive the federal COVID-19 stimulus funds (CARES Act).
We oversampled households with income under $75,000, representing approximately 85 percent of our sample, and allowed income to go up to $125,000, households with income $75,000 to $125,000 represented approximately 15 percent of our sample.