U.S. poll shows growing worries about coronavirus; drop in confidence in government

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[March 17, 2020]  WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Some 60% of Americans are now 'very' or 'somewhat worried' they or a family member will be exposed to the coronavirus, up from 36% in February, while confidence in the government's ability to respond has fallen sharply, a new poll showed.

The Gallup poll was conducted on March 2-13, shortly after the first positive case of the fast-spreading virus was reported in the United States, and came as the administration of President Donald Trump accelerated its response to the pandemic.

Sixty-one percent of Americans are 'very' or 'somewhat confident' in the U.S. government's ability to respond, a drop of 16% from February, the poll showed.

Trump, after initially downplaying the risks of the outbreak, last week declared a national emergency and on Monday urged Americans to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people and halt most social activities for 15 days to halt the spread of the disease.

The move came as financial markets tumbled despite a second emergency rate cut by the Federal Reserve, and Trump warned the U.S. economy could tip into recession as a result of the virus.

The Gallup poll showed increased worry about the outbreak among all major subgroups, surpassing that seen during previous health scares such as SARS, West Nile virus and anthrax.

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A man wearing a protective mask is seen following the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in New York City, U.S., March 16, 2020. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon

It said the results showed a significant partisan divide among those polled, with 73% of Democrats the most worried of any group, compared to just 42% of Republicans.

Only 43% of Democrats were 'very' or 'somewhat confident' in the U.S. government's ability to respond, down from 75% in February. By contrast, 85% of Republicans were very or somewhat confident, a one-percentage point drop from the earlier poll.

Over 85% of Americans now believe the coronavirus will have a "very" or "somewhat negative" impact on the global economy, up from 65% in the previous poll, Gallup said.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

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