A Probability-Based, National-Representative Survey of Americans Before, During, and After the Pandemic

Awarded Scholars:
Thomas Smith, National Opinion Research Center
Louise Hawkley, National Opinion Research Center
Project Date:
Sep 2020
Award Amount:
$29,472

Health psychologists have shown that stress increases the risk of becoming ill and reduces the ability to recover from illness. The National Opinion Research Center (NORC) is collecting three waves of data from a nationally representative sample that will provide a longitudinal and comparative assessment of the evolving social, psychological, and economic impacts of COVID-19 on American society. (NSF funded the first two waves; RSF funds will be used to conduct the third wave.)  Given the evolving nature of the pandemic, both in terms of our understanding of the disease, as well as in how policies like ‘social distancing’ are imposed, relaxed, and re-imposed differently, at different times, across states, the researchers, including historian Thomas Smith and psychologist Louise Hawkley, will examine the effects of the pandemic over time and space. The project will examine these questions: 1) To what degree is the pandemic’s impact on the economy directly or indirectly associated with stress and wellbeing levels? 2) To what extent do levels of stress and social and psychological wellbeing affect health-related behaviors and health outcomes? 3) How do experiences and outcomes vary across areas over time, and how do they compare to those in other countries? The study will track people’s reactions and behaviors and allow the researchers to measure both how the social and psychological responses change as the pandemic evolves and how the social and psychological factors in turn affect health status and behavior.  A comparative component will link the survey data by time and locality to public health data on testing, cases, deaths, and other health measures of the pandemic. The PIs will examine how situations in different locales vary and how social, psychological, and health outcomes differ. The area differences will capture the pandemic at different stages as it spreads unevenly across the nation, allowing them to distinguish between early and late affected areas and across moderately-to severely affected areas.

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