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SUNY Potsdam Kilmer Survey Research Lab Results: National Public Opinion on the Threat of COVID-19

November 15, 2022

SUNY Potsdam Researchers Release Results of National Sample Survey on Public Perception of Pandemic 

From left to right: Robert Patterson IV, Daniel Mariano, Anna Mohammed, faculty member Rob Hinckley, Jack Rice, Jessica Perez and Frankie Brown (Not pictured: Samuel Slade Wright).

The SUNY Potsdam Kilmer Survey Research Lab has released the results of its national study of public opinion on the threat of COVID-19. The study was led by Professor of Politics Dr. Robert Hinckley and a team of five student researchers, including Daniel Mariano, Robert L. Patterson IV, Jessica Perez, Jack Rice and Samuel Slade Wright. 

SUNY Potsdam's Kilmer Labs initiative proves the great benefits of faculty/student collaboration. Our students who participate in faculty-led research projects like this one learn hands-on skills, practicing social science as it is done in the field. This marriage of academic and applied learning prepares them well for a world of opportunities in business, government, and higher education. We look forward to seeing where the work of the Kilmer Survey Research Lab takes the team,” said Dr. Thomas Baker, associate director of the Lougheed Center for Applied Learning. 

Public opinion on the threat of COVID-19 

At the end of June 2022, a survey was conducted to determine the public’s perception of the COVID-19 virus and which measures are necessary to reduce the spread. Americans possess a greater fear for their fellow Americans’ health and financial well-being than their own. However, few public health measures received widespread support. 

Across all demographic categories, including a person’s age, race, income level, education level, or partisanship, respondents were still more likely to perceive the threat of harm to most Americans to be greater than the threat of harm to themselves. All groups believe that COVID-19 is a greater threat to the “health and safety of most Americans,” than it is to their own. Almost all respondents were more likely to regard COVID-19 as a threat to others’ finances than to their own.  

As with many previous studies, this survey found a large partisan gap in the perceived danger of COVID-19. Democrats or those who lean Democrat are far more likely to perceive COVID-19 as a threat than those who are Republican or lean Republican. About 61% of Republicans or those with Republican leanings responded that COVID-19 is a threat to their own health and safety, compared to 81.1% of Democrats/Democrat-leaning respondents. Republicans were 22.8% less likely to respond that COVID-19 was a threat to the safety of most Americans, 8.6% less likely to respond that it was a threat to their own financial security, and 8% less likely to respond that COVID-19 was a threat to the financial security of most Americans.

Group My own health and safety The health and safety of most Americans My own financial security The financial security of most Americans
All Americans 71.7% 72.2% 64.5% 74.0%
18-44 76.6% 90.2% 72.8% 79.5%
45-64 69.6% 72.2% 65% 74.5%
65+ 64.1% 71.6% 46.6% 74%
White 69.2% 73.4% 63.6% 74.1%
Black 81.7% 86.1% 65.8% 71.3%
Asian 83.7% 87% 80.4% 79.3%
Hispanic/Latino 78.5% 81.4% 71.3% 78.5%
Female 67.6% 72.3% 60.1% 70.2%
Male 75.3% 79.1% 68.3% 77%
<$50k per year 72.2% 76.7% 64.6% 73.6%
$50k to $100k 69.7% 74.8% 64.3% 73.2%
>$100k 74.5% 75.2% 65% 79%
Dem/Lean Dem 81.1% 88.5% 68.5% 78.5%
Rep/Lean Rep 61.6% 65.7% 59.9% 70.5%
High school or Less 68.3% 74.1% 62% 71%
Some College 70.5% 74.6% 61.9% 69.6%
College Degree 74.5% 78.7% 71.2% 82.3%
What COVID restrictions are necessary? Necessary Unnecessary Unsure
Requiring face masks 47.5% 33.5% 19.0%
Remote schooling 33.7% 39.5% 26.8%
Temporary ban on international travel to the USA from other countries 41.4% 31.4% 27.2%
Mandatory vaccinations for students at public schools and universities 49.5% 33.2% 17.3%
Temporary ban on international travel from the USA to other countries 40.4% 33.9% 25.8%
Access to regular COVID testing at schools and work 70.0% 15.1% 15.0%
Access to regular COVID testing at home 68.6% 16.1% 15.3%
Mandatory COVID vaccination for employees at all workplaces 45.5% 36.5% 18.0%

Public response to proposed COVID-19 measures 

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. implemented several measures intended to slow the spread of the virus. Some of these measures were controversial. This survey asked respondents which restrictions were deemed most necessary by the American public. 

Access to COVID testing was the only measure to receive majority support. 70% responded that COVID testing should be regularly accessible in schools and 68.6% responded that access to regular testing at home is necessary. Testing was 25-30% more popular than the other proposed measures. 

Remote schooling was the least popular, with only 33% of respondents supporting this measure. While most measures received less than majority support, remote schooling was much lower. It was also the only measure to have more respondents deem it as unnecessary than necessary. 

Requiring face masks, vaccinations for public schools and universities, and vaccinations for workplace employees received similar levels of support, with 47-49% of respondents deeming them necessary, and 33-36% deeming them unnecessary. Implementing travel restrictions to and from the United States received 40-41% approval. For many of the measures, a considerable number of Americans were unsure how they felt about them being implemented. 

How we did this 

Kilmer Survey Research Lab at SUNY (State University of New York) Potsdam conducted this study to measure the public’s perception of the pandemic. In June 2022, COVID cases were expected to continue rising, with deaths expected to increase as well, especially among the unvaccinated, elderly, and people with weakened immune systems. Starting in the spring of 2022 and going into summer, Omicron variants brought with them a surge of COVID cases nationwide. However, it was apparent that these cases were resulting in far fewer deaths than previous waves of COVID cases.  

This national survey began on June 14 and ended on June 29. Qualtrics provided the software and sample data necessary to conduct this research. The sample size of the survey was 1,518 respondents, who took an average of 17.5 minutes to complete it. 

About SUNY Potsdam:  

Founded in 1816, The State University of New York at Potsdam is one of America’s first 50 colleges—and the oldest institution within SUNY. Now in its third century, SUNY Potsdam is distinguished by a legacy of pioneering programs and educational excellence. The College currently enrolls approximately 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Home to the world-renowned Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam is known for its challenging liberal arts and sciences core, distinction in teacher training and culture of creativity. To learn more, visit 

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