You’ve probably seen that viral local news report of college students in Miami — the one where some adamant young people say that nothing will stop them from enjoying their spring break, including a global pandemic. Or maybe you’ve heard about young folks ignoring social distancing practices and throwing coronavirus parties, only to get sick later.
This “irresponsible young people” narrative is easy to slap onto millennials and Gen-Z, but stories like these don’t paint an accurate picture of how some younger Oregonians are actually feeling about COVID-19, according to a new poll on coronavirus attitudes from DHM Research.
The poll, which surveyed more than 500 people across the state from March 24-30, found 29% of people aged 18 to 29 felt they were more concerned about the virus than were other people in their life. This age group outweighed all others, including seniors. Only about 11% of people aged 65 and older said they had coronavirus concerns.
John Horvick, political director at DHM Research, said this finding was among the most surprising from the poll.
“There's going to be lots of folks that are making bad choices for themselves and for the community,” Horvick said. “But in this survey we see that younger people are more concerned [and] have a higher level of anxiety.”
Those concerns showed in other areas, too.
Nearly half of young people polled said they did not feel well prepared to deal with the virus if they or someone in their household contracted COVID-19. People in older age groups generally felt more prepared.
And when it comes to finding credible information on the virus, most Oregonians were confident in their sources. But 18- to 29-year-olds stood out on this measure too, with more than 30% reporting they did not know where to find reliable coronavirus information.
It’s hard to pin down exactly why young Oregonians are feeling anxious right now, but Horvick said most of their anxiety probably stems from financial matters.
“They're the ones who are losing their jobs. They’re the ones who are unable to afford their housing,” Horvick said. “Over and over again, younger people are more concerned.”
The poll found that overall 63% of those surveyed were worried about their personal financial situations, a 13-point jump from a 2019 DHM survey.
The statewide poll mirrors some recent national polls from the Pew Research Center and Gallup that showed Americans are generally more concerned with the new coronavirus as time goes on.
Other notable poll results
- 64% of Oregonians said they are paying more attention to the news since COVID-19 arrived in March
- Gov. Kate Brown got an approval rating of 55% for how she's managed the pandemic so far.
- 35% of those surveyed said they may need help in the future getting basic needs met, like traveling to the grocery store
- 41% said they may need financial help to pay for things like food, medicine and utilities
- 36% said they might need help paying rent or a mortgage