Public support for U.S. social safety net policies throughout the COVID-19 pandemic

Rachel J. Topazian, C. Ross Hatton, Colleen L. Barry, Adam S. Levine, Emma E. McGinty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


COVID-19 has stretched the U.S. social safety net and prompted federal legislation designed to ameliorate the pandemic's health and economic impacts. We surveyed a nationally representative cohort of 1222 U.S. adults in April 2020 and November 2020 to evaluate changes in public opinion about 11 social safety net policies and the role of government over the course of the pandemic. A majority of U.S. adults supported six policies at both time points, including policies guaranteeing two weeks of paid sick leave; enacting universal health insurance; increasing the federal minimum wage; and increasing government spending on construction projects, business tax credits, and employment education and training. From April to November 2020, public support was stable for nine of the 11 policies but declined nearly 10 percentage points for policies guaranteeing two weeks paid sick leave (from 76% support in April 2020 to 67% support in November 2020) and extending unemployment insurance benefits (51% to 42%). Declines in support for these two policies were concentrated among those with higher incomes, more education, in better health status, the employed, and those with health insurance. The share of respondents believing in a strong role of government also declined from 33% in April to 26% in November 2020 (p > 0.05). Despite these shifts, we observed consistent majority support for several policies enacted during the pandemic, including guaranteeing paid sick leave and business tax credits, as well as employment-related policies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106873
JournalPreventive Medicine
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • COVID-19
  • Paid sick leave
  • Social safety net
  • Unemployment benefits

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Epidemiology


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