When Decisions Get Hard, We Listen Harder: Survey Reveals Impact of Coronavirus

My phone vibrates with an alert, a press conference airs on TV and my Facebook feed lights up – each time with more decisions about how to respond to the coronavirus outbreak, how to protect our health and how to work toward economic recovery.

More than two months into this crisis, and with much to balance, the decisions are getting harder for officials. When to open up the economy? How to stretch the diminishing state budget? What supports to put in place for those who are struggling?

When decisions get hard, I start listening. As senior officer of public opinion insights, it’s my job. In my view, public opinion research is simply a form of listening – not to the pundits or the policymakers, but to people whose lives are being impacted by every decision made.

That’s why we partnered with Healthier Colorado on a statewide survey of Coloradans about their concerns, needs, experiences and priorities regarding the coronavirus outbreak. Together, we wanted to listen to voices that aren’t being heard and lift them up to ensure future decisions are made with them in mind.

If you missed last week’s release of the survey results, watch the webinar briefing or check out the slides. You can also access all the survey resources, including topline results, crosstabs, verbatim responses and analysis.

Our Survey Approach: Rigor and Speed

We embarked on this research project with the goal of holding up a mirror to Coloradans – to understand the realities and perspectives of the people we exist to serve and reflect those back to decision-makers across the state.

Coloradans deserve decisions informed by timely, accurate information about what people are experiencing and how their needs and views are evolving. The urgent need for this information was clear, and we sought to move quickly. Nonetheless, it was important to bring rigor to this research without compromising on timeliness.

Conducted by Magellan Strategies between April 15 and April 21, the survey sampled the adult resident population of Colorado based on 2019 U.S. Census estimates (age 18 or older). We reached 1,100 Coloradans via phone or online.

Over the course of each 22-minute interview, we asked 64 questions of each respondent, many of which focused on demographics, allowing us to look closely at a number of key populations. One important population is African Americans, whom we over-sampled to more thoroughly understand their experiences given state and national data showing a disproportionate impact of the virus on Black communities. The overall margin of error for the survey was +/- 3.1%.

Key Findings: What Decision-Makers Need to Know

The results of the survey provide clarity about how the coronavirus crisis has impacted Coloradans, including people’s emotional, physical and financial health. It’s our hope that the findings will help state- and local-level decision-makers, and health officials, in determining the next best steps to support recovery efforts. Here are the key findings:

  • Coloradans are both hopeful that the future will be better, but fear the worst has yet to come.
  • Young Coloradans and those living on low incomes have been hit hard by the economics of this crisis, from job losses to financial insecurity.
  • A majority of Coloradans support staying at home over reopening the economy.
  • A majority of Coloradans say the stress and worry from the coronavirus outbreak has impacted their mental health.
  • More Coloradans are worried about paying for necessities of daily living like housing, food, utilities and prescription drugs.
  • Coloradans overwhelmingly feel the government should do more to make health care more affordable, support individuals who cannot afford food and housing, and provide paid sick and family leave.
  • Most people feel there are significant changes ahead to the way we live, socialize and work, even after the coronavirus outbreak is under control.

In Their Words

It took less than a week to conduct these interviews – far faster than is typical – because Coloradans were eager to tell their stories. They wanted decision-makers to know what they’re going through, what they fear and what they need.

When asked to describe their concerns, respondents spoke most often about health and financial worries. Many also described being very stressed, depressed, anxious or fearful:

  • “I am worried about opening things too soon. People are thinking that everything is okay. People are trying to go back to normal, but things are getting worse.” – Female, 18-29 years of age, Weld County
  • “I’m afraid of getting infected or getting furloughed from my job or basically being laid off by my company.” – Male, 35-39 years of age, Adams County
  • “What worries me the most is my finances. I lost my job directly because of the virus. I was working at a staffing agency, and they stopped using the service.” – Male, 18-29 years of age, City & County of Denver
  • “I’ve felt very trapped and alone.” – Female, 18-29 years of age, Weld County
  • “I am unsure and fearful of the unknown and what is going to happen.” – Male, 30-34 years of age, Pueblo County
  • “I am more stressed out than normal. I have more concerns about my family members’ health.” – Male, 60-64 years of age, Douglas County

The impacts of this crisis are far-reaching. Most of us know someone who is hurting, whose life has been turned upside-down. This survey shows just how widespread the impact has been and how great the needs are and will continue to be.

A Long-Term Commitment

Listening has become the backbone of our approach at the Foundation – across everything we do. Research is just one way we listen, but it’s a powerful one.

The information gleaned from this survey reminds me of the pivotal role research can – and must – play in the midst of a crisis. It’s the thing that keeps us from going down a path that worsens the suffering of people bearing the brunt of the fallout of the pandemic. Now, as decisions are getting harder and harder for officials, we can help – because we know a little more about what Coloradans are really dealing with. We got there by listening.

The Foundation is devoted to learning more about the perspectives, attitudes, beliefs and concerns of Coloradans to amplify the voices of people who have historically had less power and privilege, inform decisions and drive change. By engaging in research and analysis, we can expand how we think about health, better our understanding of which solutions work and expand opportunities for health equity in Colorado.

We’re committed to listening – and we’re in it for the long haul.

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