Young Americans less likely to social distance as coronavirus cases continue to rise, survey says

Young Americans less likely to social distance as coronavirus cases continue to rise, survey says

WASHINGTON – As the number of new coronavirus cases in the United States continues to rise, nearly half of young Americans say they’ve hung out with people outside of their household without social distancing, according to a new survey.

Among Americans ages 18 to 29, 45% said in the past week they have socialized with people they do not live with while not maintaining social distancing, according to a new survey from the Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape Project. That is the highest rate among all age groups, with those ages 30 to 44 trailing just slightly at 42%

That is almost two times the rate of other age groups. Among Americans ages 45 to 64, 28% reported socializing without social distancing. Americans over 65 were the least likely (21%) to have hung out with people they don't live with while not social distancing.

The United States on Wednesday saw its highest number of new coronavirus cases recorded in months. Since May, the majority of states across the country have begun loosening social distancing restrictions that were in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Several of the nation’s most populous states, including California, Texas and Florida, have reported record-setting highs in daily new cases.

Nationscape Insights:Where do Americans stand on the issues? Let them tell you.

When broken down by party lines, young Republicans were the most likely group to say they had hung out with people they didn't live with while not practicing social distancing, according to analysis from Nationscape Insights, a project of Democracy Fund, UCLA and USA TODAY.

The Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape Project is a massive study of the American electorate designed to conduct 500,000 interviews about policies and the presidential candidates during the 2020 election cycle. The survey was conducted June 11-17, with 6,914 people surveyed. There is a margin of error of plus or minus 2.1 percentage points.

More than half of Republicans ages 18 to 29 (55%) and 30 to 44 (56%) said they did not practice social distancing when hanging out with people they do not live with. That topped young Democrats by double digits. Among Democrats, those numbers were 40% for those ages 18 to 29 and 34% for those ages 30 to 44.

“We're kind of in this naughty situation where these folks are probably engaging in this stuff because it is less dangerous to them personally, but that has significant downstream effects,” said Robert Griffin, research director for the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group. “They are now some of the people who are most likely to be causing this to happen, and (it) to grow worse in some of these states.”

More:Majority of Americans still concerned over coronavirus as country continues to reopen, survey shows

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott blamed young people for the latest rise in coronavirus cases. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis this week also noted “a real explosion in new cases amongst our younger demographics.”

A majority of Americans, however, did say they are social distancing when meeting with people they do not live with. Sixty-four percent of Americans say they have, compared to 36% that said they have not.

Griffin noted that for some Americans, “how people are thinking about managing risk and deciding on what they're doing is obviously a function of multiple things that are happening,” such as political affiliation or age.

When it comes to masks, use among all demographics remains high.

More than 8 in 10 Americans (85%) said they have continued to wear a mask in the past week, with people over the age of 65 reporting the highest usage of all age groups (89%). When broken down by party, Democrats (92%) are more likely to have worn a mask in the last week than Republicans (80%), though they both had strong majorities.

Contributing: Grace Hauck and Khrysgiana Pineda, USA TODAY


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