Nearly 3 in 4 Voters Say People Should Be Required to Test for COVID-19 Before Returning to Work, School

4 in 5 said they would take a diagnostic test if they thought they were exposed to the virus

A health worker administers a COVID-19 test to a patient on May 8, 2020 in Greenwich, Conn. A Morning Consult poll found that 80 percent of voters would take a diagnostic test if they thought they were exposed to the coronavirus. (John Moore/Getty Images)
May 26, 2020 at 12:01 am ET
  • Democrats are roughly 20 points more likely than Republicans to say testing should be mandatory for employees, students before they return to work and school.

  • Almost 7 in 10 voters said they would take an antibody test to determine if they previously were infected with COVID-19.

  • 59% said the United States has not done enough to make testing readily available.

In recent weeks, public health experts and government officials have cited coronavirus testing as a vital measure to get people back to work and school in a safe manner as all 50 states start to ease some coronavirus-related restrictions. And new Morning Consult polling shows a majority of registered voters support testing employees and students before they return to workplaces and schools, and most are open to being tested themselves.

In a May 19-21 survey, nearly three-quarters of the electorate said workers should be required to be tested for coronavirus before going back to work, with a statistically equal share saying the same for students returning to school or colleges. Fifteen percent said testing shouldn’t be required for either group, and 12 percent and 11 percent, respectively, said they don’t know or have no opinion on coronavirus testing for employees and students.

Majorities of Democrats, independents and Republicans said COVID-19 testing should be required for workers and students returning to their places of work and study, but Democrats were about 20 percentage points more likely than Republicans to back mandatory testing, while independents roughly split the difference between the two parties. 

The poll surveyed 1,995 registered voters and has a 2-point margin of error.

Voters were also asked whether they would take a coronavirus test of their own accord. Four in 5 voters said they would take a diagnostic test — which determines if a person has been infected with the virus — if they thought they had been exposed to COVID-19. A slightly smaller share, at 69 percent, said they would take an antibody test, which determines if a patient has COVID-19 antibodies and indicates whether they were previously infected but have since recovered. Some researchers have claimed a person who has coronavirus antibodies also has an immunity to the virus, but other researchers have said there is not enough evidence yet to confirm that assertion. 

While coronavirus testing has been considered essential to getting the nation back on track — both in terms of public health and the economy — it has also been scattered in terms of its availability. A recent study by Castlight Health found that 54 percent of U.S. counties have no coronavirus testing sites and that 58 percent of the counties that do have testing facilities “do not have enough capacity to meet minimum recommended levels for their population.”

In the Morning Consult survey, 26 percent of voters said testing is readily available “to all who want or need it” in their local community, while 43 percent said it is available to only a “limited number of people who qualify.” Thirteen percent said there is no testing available, and 18 percent said they did not know or had no opinion. 

When presented with the statement that the United States “has not done enough to make COVID-19 testing readily available,” 59 percent said they agreed, 30 percent disagreed and 11 percent said they didn’t know. Democrats were most likely to agree with the statement at 78 percent, followed by independents at 60 percent and Republicans at 36 percent.

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