Much of the news coverage around the novel coronavirus has, understandably, focused on seniors. They are at higher risk for developing more serious complications, or dying, from the virus.
But a new survey of Washington residents shows that when it comes to financial survival, our most vulnerable population is young adults.
Among those 18 to 29 years old, more than one out of three (37%) say that they have, or someone in their household has, lost a job or been laid off because of the coronavirus outbreak. And nearly half (48%) have taken a pay cut or had their hours reduced.
These numbers are significantly higher than for other age groups, although the crisis is hitting many older people hard as well. But, as you’d expect, seniors are much less likely to have lost a job (13%) or taken a pay cut (4%), since so many are already retired.
The survey was sponsored by marketing communications firm Quinn Thomas, which has offices in Seattle and Portland, and was conducted by polling firm DHM Research. Statewide, 502 adults were surveyed online between April 1-6.
“Given the uncertainty for Washington residents and employers resulting from COVID-19, we want to help develop a better understanding about how residents are feeling, what they are experiencing, and their perceptions of key institutions,” said Zach Knowling, vice president at Quinn Thomas. “We see signals of hope and solidarity, but the economic pain is real. It’s shifting behaviors and producing a clear need for assistance.”
That need for assistance is most acute among the young.
The data show that a staggering 51% of young adults say they expect to need help paying the rent or mortgage in the next few months, compared with just 8% of seniors. And 53% of those 18 to 29 say they’ll need help paying for basic needs like food, medicine and utilities. Among those 65 and older, 16% say they will need help with this.
The survey also shows that those with a household income of less than $50,000 — a group which, naturally, includes a lot of young adults — are the most likely to need assistance.
And a greater share of people of color expect to need help compared with white Washingtonians, although the difference is not as dramatic as between young adults and seniors. Among white people, 29% said they would need help with rent or mortgage payments, compared with 37% of people of color. And 34% of white people said they would need assistance paying for basic needs compared with 39% of people of color.
Even though young Washingtonians are taking the biggest financial hit during this crisis, their expenses aren’t necessarily going down.
The majority (55%) of those 18-29 say they are spending more on groceries since the arrival of the coronavirus, which is higher than any other age group. Only 21% of seniors say they’re spending more on groceries. Perhaps the coronavirus lockdown has had a bigger lifestyle impact on young adults, as they’ve had to shift toward eating at home instead of at restaurants and cafes.
While many young adults may be struggling financially, they’re also stuck inside with not much to do. This age group has the highest percentage (23%) who say they are spending more on cannabis now. And 30% of those 18-to-29 are spending more on home entertainment such as movies, books, video or board games, compared with just 12% of seniors.
Compared with other age groups, a higher percentage of young adults in Washington say that the government should do more to help ensure that both homeowners and renters can keep their homes.
While the great majority of Washingtonians are social distancing, the survey shows a higher rate of compliance among seniors than young adults. Among those 18 to 29, 16% still say they are only self-isolating some or none of the time, compared with 3% of seniors.
The survey also touches on politics. And as recent data points to Washington’s success in flattening the curve of novel coronavirus infections, it delivers some good news for Gov. Jay Inslee.
The majority of Washington residents approve of the job Inslee is doing in response to the novel coronavirus crisis. Sixty-two percent rate his performance as good or excellent, compared with 34% who consider it only fair or poor.
But, unsurprisingly, there’s a huge gap along political lines. Among state Democrats, 82% approve of Inslee’s handling of the crisis. That number drops to 54% among Independents and just 47% among Republicans.
There’s more good news for Inslee: The majority of state residents — even Republicans — feel that Washington is moving in the right direction, according to the survey. Overall, 55% say that the state is on the right track compared with 29% who feel we’re on the wrong track (another 16% are unsure).
But President Donald Trump’s overall rating for his handling of the coronavirus crisis is pretty dismal in Washington. Only 37% say it’s been good or excellent, and nearly half (46%) consider it poor.
Again, the responses fall along party lines. Among state Republicans, 81% give Trump a good or excellent rating for his response to the crisis. And among Democrats, just 9% do.
Independents, as you’d expect, fall in between those two extremes, but they’re not good: Just 35% rate Trump good or excellent.
The survey was weighted by age, gender, area of state, and education to match the demographic makeup of Washington’s adult population. The margin of error for this survey is ±4.4 percentage points. The full survey results can be viewed here.