Skip Navigation

Produced by the Office of Marketing and Communications

Subscribe Now

Americans Not Ready to Reopen, New UMD-Post Poll Finds

Rising Number of Respondents Fear Serious COVID-19 Illness

By Sara Gavin

Woman wearing face mask and holding "Open" sign outside a restaurant

Photo by John Bazemore/AP

Mary Spoto, general manager of Madison Chop House Grille in Madison, Ga., places a sign outside the restaurant last week as she and her staff prepared to shift from takeout only to dine-in service. A new UMD-Washington Post poll found that Americans overwhelmingly oppose reopening establishments such as restaurants and retail stores.

As many states begin to ease restrictions on businesses shuttered for weeks to help combat the coronavirus pandemic, Americans overwhelmingly oppose reopening establishments such as restaurants and retail stores, finds the latest University of Maryland-Washington Post poll

The poll, which surveyed a random national sample of 1,005 adults from April 28 to May 3, reveals 78% of Americans would be uncomfortable eating at a sit-down restaurant and 67% would be uncomfortable shopping at a retail clothing store. More than half (56%) say they are comfortable making trips to the grocery store, but an overwhelming majority is against reopening other types of businesses, such as gyms (78% opposed) and gun shops (70% ), as well as barbershops and salons (69%). 

“People in states with looser restrictions report similar levels of discomfort as those in states with stricter rules,” said Michael Hanmer, a professor of government and politics, who co-directed the poll. “Our results suggest people will remain cautious as businesses begin to open their doors, representing a major hurdle to restarting the economy.” 

Fear of infection is driving concerns over business returning to normal: 63% of Americans say they are either very or somewhat worried about contracting COVID-19 and becoming seriously ill. That represents an uptick from the 57% who said they were worried about getting sick from the virus in a UMD-Post poll conducted two weeks ago.

While some states are still experiencing growth in the pace of infections, others appear to be past the peak in the virus cycle. When asked where their own communities stand, 31% of poll respondents say they feel the worst is behind them. Another 30% say the worst is happening now, while 38% say the worst is yet to come.

“Republicans and those who are not worried about becoming seriously ill from the coronavirus are more likely than others to say the worst is behind their communities,” Hanmer said. “Differences among age groups are particularly striking, with less than a quarter of 18- to 39-year-olds saying that the worst is behind their communities, compared with 40% of those 65 and older.”

This week’s poll is the third in a series of surveys conducted by the UMD Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement and The Washington Post designed to probe American attitudes about the coronavirus pandemic. Results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. 



Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Marketing and Communications for the University of Maryland community on weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.