SALEM — Younger Oregonians are quite concerned about coronavirus compared with older Oregonians, according to new research.
The data released by DHM Research in Portland undercut the narrative prominent in national media that young people as blasé about COVID-19 and feeling invulnerable.
“If you look at these numbers, younger people are more concerned about being infected. They are more concerned about other people being infected,” said John Horvick, DHM’s director of client relations and political research. “They feel less prepared. They have a lot more concern about being able to pay their bills.”
Most Oregonians were concerned they or someone close to them would become infected with the coronavirus. Fifty-three percent of respondents ages 18-29 worried about personally contracting COVID-19, compared with 61% in the 30-44 age group; 55%, ages 45-64; and 40%, ages 65 and older.
DHM conducted the online survey with 507 Oregonians during March 24-30. Oregonians’ outlook for the short term remains dim. Seventy-six percent said problems associated with coronavirus would get worse during the next week. That number dropped to 51% who said the problems would be worse in a month, and only 14% who expected things to be worse in six months.
A “consequential minority” of Oregonians were unsure what is meant by such terms as social distancing (12%), quarantine (13%), self-isolation (16%) and shelter in place (24%), although the latter phrase has been replaced in Oregon and some other states with “stay home.”
The numbers varied by geography, education level and other factors.
“I’m not an epidemiologist, but if you have 10% of the folks who don’t know what they’ve been asked to do, that seems like a problem,” Horvick said.
“It’s a relatively high number of people who say they don’t know what to do considering what we need folks to be doing.”
Since 2011, DHM has been asking Oregonians how concerned they were about their personal financial situations. Late last year, 50% were somewhat or very worried. Now it’s 63%, with the strongest concern among Oregonians having incomes below $50,000.
“Given the great many people who have already lost their jobs due to coronavirus, the number of Oregonians experiencing financial distress will almost certainly increase,” DHM said in releasing the survey data.
DHM also asked about the anxiety level of Oregonians, which Horvick said had been covered less in national polls. The survey indicated 19% of Oregonians have moderate-to-severe levels of anxiety.
That was in line with what the Pew Research Center has found nationally, and it ties in with what Oregon officials have been saying about the importance of mental health care along with physical care.
“This is a very — in a lot of ways — slow-evolving emergency or disaster, but it’s incredibly impactful across the state. So we want to make sure that the anxiety I know Oregonians are feeling is being addressed,” said Andrew Phelps, director of the Oregon Office of Emergency Management.
Phelps encouraged Oregonians to check in on the behavioral health of themselves, family members, friends and neighbors, and to take a break from social media.
Nearly one-fourth of Oregonians have stopped paying attention to the news because of anxiety about the coronavirus, but nearly two-thirds are paying more attention, according to DHM. Among other findings:
• 40% of Oregonians said they were not prepared to deal with a coronavirus infection in theirhousehold.
• 41% might need help paying for basics needs like food, medicine and utilities.
• 28% might need help picking up prescription drugs.
• 22% said the news coverage of coronavirus has been exaggerated; 24% said has been underestimated.
• 78% of Oregon Republicans approved of President Trump’s response to the coronavirus; 12% of Democrats and 45% of non-affiliated and other party voters approved.
• 75% of Oregon Democrats approved of Gov. Kate Brown’s job performance regarding coronavirus compared with 31% of Republicans and 52% of non-affiliated and other voters.
• 40% of respondents said Oregon was on the right track, a drop of 5 percentage points from late last year.
• 46% said local governments should go ahead with planned May ballot measures for schools, roads, public safety or other public services; 36% said the money measures should be taken off the ballot, and 17% didn’t know.