A new survey conducted by The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that the majority of Americans don’t plan on returning to restaurants, bars, gyms, theaters, or public events amidst the coronavirus pandemic, even as the country reopens.
Of the people who said that they went out to restaurants, bars, and the gym regularly, about half said that they would feel comfortable going back to those places within the next few weeks, The Associated Press reported. Only 42 percent of people who said they regularly went to the theater, movies, sporting events or concerts said that they would feel comfortable returning to those kinds of venues or events.
Though the majority of survey respondents indicated their reluctance to go to a crowded venue where they’d be spending an extended period of time, they didn’t show as much reluctance to shopping. The Associated Press reported that 69 percent of the survey respondents who said they regularly shopped for non-essential items before the pandemic said they would be willing to go to a mall or a department store just to browse around.
▶️ The coronavirus pandemic has gutted New York City's restaurants.
Celebrity chef and restaurateur Tom Colicchio discusses what's at stake and what can be done to save the industry. pic.twitter.com/3oiXvs6jn2
— The Voice of America (@VOANews) May 21, 2020
The survey found that whether or not a survey respondent was reluctant to go out depended quite a bit on their political affiliation, according to The Associated Press. Republicans were much more likely to go to restaurants, the movies, the theater, a concert, or the gym than Democrats. Republicans were also more likely to be comfortable browsing in a mall or a department store, though the divide wasn’t as sharp. There was only one thing that Republicans and Democrats wanted to do almost equally — get a haircut.
The Associated Press stated that these survey responses don’t bode well for the U.S. economy, which is absolutely dependent on consumers. About 70 percent of U.S. economic activity consists of people buying goods and services. As states began to reopen, the hope was that Americans would return to consuming as they did before the pandemic. However, with so many people still reluctant to actually go to brick-and-mortar businesses, a full economic recovery is likely a long way off.
Some companies can’t wait for that economic recovery to come, according to The Associated Press. Without a return to normal spending levels, many businesses will be forced to shut down permanently.
To make the economic situation even more complicated, millions of Americans don’t have the buying power they once did. The survey found that 25 percent of people had experienced a job loss in their household. Almost 50 percent of survey respondents said that their household income had decreased in some way, even if they hadn’t experienced a job loss. Some people had to take unpaid time off, were furloughed or were laid off, and have not received unemployment benefits.
According to The Associated Press, the U.S. is going through the most severe economic downturn in its history, and the reluctance to return to business as usual is likely to make an economic recovery painfully slow.