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Harris Poll data on the impact of coronavirus and workers

Mark Penn, Harris Poll chairman, spoke with Yahoo Finance's Andy Serwer about what the latest polls about coronavirus are revealing about workers in America.

Video Transcript

MYLES UDLAND: But what are Americans concerned about when it comes to the coronavirus, and what do they think about the performance of President Donald Trump so far? Yahoo Finance Editor in Chief Andy Serwer spoke to pollster Mark Penn of the Harris Poll on what their new polls are showing.

ANDY SERWER: Your latest poll says that one in five Americans want to go back to work once the government says it's all clear, but doesn't that mean four out of five Americans don't want to go back?

MARK PENN: Well, I actually think that people want to go back to work generally. I mean, I think that was kind of the-- those are the people most eager to go to work, so 22%. Now not everyone is employed, so if you kind of look at it, there's probably 60%. So a third of the workforce is saying, look, I want to get back to work as quickly as possible.

Some people are not affected at all, you know, in terms of the work, and some people are affected dramatically. About 80%-- you know, somewhere between 70% and 80% are saying that their employer has taken some action, you know, related to-- related to the virus at this point.

But I don't see it as a public reluctant to go back to work. I see it as a public that's-- they're listening to instructions, by and large. They're doing what they can. I think the poll's very clear. They have changed their fundamental activities in fundamental ways in cooperation with the government, by and large.

ANDY SERWER: Some people are saying that young people are not being as compliant with the recommendations. What did you find?

MARK PENN: Yeah, we have found, you know, consistently that young people were chomping-- were, on the one hand, more afraid, right, in some instances, than older people were but also more defiant, you know, in terms of the numbers. I think some of these differences are coming down. I think we saw them in some of the earlier waves.

ANDY SERWER: Are Americans concerned about shortages, Mark?

MARK PENN: Yes, Americans are definitely concerned about shortages. And some of that concern I think will probably come down, you know, in the next week or two depending upon what develops, but 80% or 90% are concerned of shortages. Obviously, everyone knows that we've been through the toilet paper, you know, scares and so forth. And we had-- we had-- I think I was-- I'm trying to remember the number. But it was like the second most scared-- thought about item in terms of shortages. But they-- by and large, a majority is concerned that there will be shortages. I don't think that-- I do think, actually, that there will be fewer shortages than people think.

ANDY SERWER: So what about-- what about President Trump? How is his approval rating during all this?

MARK PENN: Well, Trump's getting approval of what he's doing in the 60s. Now let me just say that, on the one hand, people have become increasingly impatient with overall-- the overall government. And in the waves of polling more saying, look, I want the government action now. It's more-- it should be bigger.

But that's different from the Trump approval, which started out mostly on the negative side. It's running in the 60s now. I mean, people are very supportive, think that their governors and their locals are doing an even better job. But the truth of the matter is that the president was in a highly polarized situation in which only 10% of Democrats or less would ever approve of anything he did, and that's up to 40%. So the president is reaching across the partisan divide that he's been unable to breach in anything that he has done, you know, through this-- through what he's doing now.

ANDY SERWER: Yeah. I think the president was saying two weeks now, Mark. And so you feel like 60 days is kind of a responsible middle ground?

MARK PENN: Yeah, I think that, look, things went down in stages. They're going to have to come up in stages. So a 60-day plan may mean it's really 120 days before people are-- if I look at the polling, wow, people are not going to be comfortable flying here for, you know, three or four months. The airlines are going to have to come through with a convincing plan in order to say, hey, we can keep-- we can keep you safe on this airplane. They don't have that right now.

But I think that you're going to look at work-- you know, the workplaces come back, you know, more and more. You know, then the question of will schools begin to go back? Then the question is what will happen-- you know, maybe even before that, some leisure activities, and then what will happen with restaurants, right? And so I think it's a staged thing, and I also think that it's premature right now because the numbers are rising.