Cleveland Museum of Natural History Survey

Cleveland Museum of Natural History Survey

DESPITE DEEPLY POLARIZED PUBLIC OPINION, NEW POLL SHOWS CLOSE TO 90% OF AMERICANS TRUST IN SCIENCE AND THINK PUBLIC UNDERSTANDING OF SCIENCE IS NECESSARY Cleveland Museum of Natural History Survey Conducted by the Marist Poll ... Read Now >

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Cleveland Museum of Natural History Survey

DESPITE DEEPLY POLARIZED PUBLIC OPINION, NEW POLL SHOWS CLOSE TO 90% OF AMERICANS TRUST IN SCIENCE AND THINK PUBLIC UNDERSTANDING OF SCIENCE IS NECESSARY

Cleveland Museum of Natural History Survey Conducted by the Marist Poll Shows 85% of Americans Want to Increase Their Scientific Understanding While Nearly Half Report They Are Falling Behind

With crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic and disasters caused by climate change dominating headlines and people’s lives—and at a time when the American public is deeply divided on a broad range of issues—a new national poll developed by the Cleveland Museum of Natural History (CMNH) and conducted by the Marist Poll reveals that a vast majority of Americans trust science and think public understanding of scientific information is necessary. 

The poll shows:

  • 90% of Americans think it is necessary for people like themselves to have a basic understanding of science;
  • 88% of the public trusts in science;
  • 85% of Americans want to learn more about science, while close to half (44%) report they are falling behind in their understanding; and
  • Scientists were cited as the most trusted source of accurate scientific information (58%), while only 4% of Americans place most of their trust in either the government (2%) or social media (2%) as reliable sources. 

“The Cleveland Museum of Natural History sponsored this survey to advance our mission to promote scientific literacy and empower individuals with the tools they need to engage meaningfully on issues of human health, climate change, protecting the natural environment, and other vital challenges,” said Sonia Winner, President and CEO of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. “While Americans have traditionally trusted science, in the face of an ongoing international pandemic and polarized public opinion on so many issues, we needed to know if that trust still held. The resounding response from the public is yes.”

The survey also showed that the majority of Americans perceive the natural world is changing for the worse and that these changes affect their lives. 

  • 86% of Americans feel connected to the natural world;
  • 92% think that the health of the environment directly impacts their own health; and
  • Nearly two thirds (63%) think the natural world has changed for the worse since they were children. 

These opinions all align with the evidence the scientific community has gathered, and tested, on these issues. 

The survey also reveals a lack in basic understanding of scientific concepts but—more importantly—a desire to learn about science.

  • Almost two thirds (63%) of Americans are not aware that the elements in our bodies were present in the universe millions of years ago;
  • Slightly over half (51%) of the public incorrectly answered that scientists have documented nearly all the living things on Earth; and 
  • More than one in four Americans (29%) could not answer correctly when asked how long it takes the Earth to go around the sun.

Formal education helps, but does not guarantee scientific knowledge. Only 40% of college graduates correctly answered that the human body is composed of elements such as stardust from the ancient universe. College graduates are divided (49% to 49%) about whether or not most species on the Earth have yet to be discovered. And nearly one in five college graduates (17%) are not able to identify the amount of time it takes the Earth to orbit the sun.

“The most telling findings of the survey are not the gaps in people’s knowledge, but the public’s clear grasp of the fundamental importance of science in their daily lives and their tremendous desire to learn more,” said Dr. Gavin Svenson, CMNH Director of Research and Collections. “It is our responsibility as scientists not only to advance our understanding of the world, but to respond to this call from the public to share the relevance of this research and enable people to navigate the constantly evolving body of scientific evidence and knowledge.”

CMNH President and CEO Winner added, “The Museum’s $150 million campaign to transform all our exhibitions and programs—and even our building—is designed to give scientists the platform to share their passion and their knowledge with the public. There are very few places where the public can directly experience new scientific information, see how science progresses, and find new perspectives on how to use those insights in their daily life. The events of the last months have demonstrated how vital that is.”

Survey Data

About the Cleveland Museum of Natural History

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History illuminates the natural world and inspires visitors to engage with the scientific forces that shape their lives. Since its founding in 1920, the Museum has pioneered scientific research to advance knowledge across diverse fields of study and used its outstanding collections, which have grown to encompass more than five million artifacts and specimens, to engage the public with the dynamic connections between humans and the world around us. Through its Natural Areas Program, the Museum stewards more than 11,000 acres of protected ecosystems across northern Ohio. A community gathering place, educational center, and research institution, CMNH is a vital resource that serves the Cleveland community and the nation. For more information, visit cmnh.org.

Rock & Rap: How Public Opinion Has Changed

This year, the Foo Fighters and Jay-Z were both selected for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility. Pretty amazing stuff considering their music is part of genres that weren’t always embraced by the American public. So, what changed?

As the 60s came to a close, Americans had been numbed by a thousand body bags a month heading home from Vietnam, back-to-back summers of violent riots, and the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy.

But, in that last summer of the historic decade, rock and roll was ascendant as some of the most popular groups headed to the Hudson Valley for Woodstock. In that moment of August 1969, rock represented the counterculture — free love, plenty of weed, long hair, peace and freedom — but worthy of a hall of fame? Doubtful.

Jimi Hendrix:

In what appears to be the first major poll asking about rock, a 1969 Louis Harris & Associates Poll found 77% of people said that young people who liked rock ‘n’ roll were neither “harming” nor “helping” American life. Rock just was.

But, as the Woodstock generation grew up and shed some of its anti-establishment idealism, rock — especially from the 60s and 70s — started being seen through a nostalgic lens. In a 1989 Media General/Associated Press Poll, 50% of Americans said that they looked back on the rock music of the time as either “good” or “excellent.” Right on.

But, current music? That was a different story. The mid-80s featured loud controversies about rap and rock lyrics. The Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) — headed by Boomers from the rock ‘n’ roll generation — led the charge over what it considered violent and misogynistic music and videos and got the recording industry to start a voluntary rating system, similar to the movies, that survives to this day.

By the time the Foo Fighters emerged from the grunge rock scene in the mid-90s, rock was still thriving and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame opened in Cleveland. But, Americans were split over rock’s legacy in society. A 1999 Pew Research Poll found 45% of Americans thought rock and roll had been a “change for the better”, while 23% thought it had been for the worse.

Foo Fighters:

A 2002 NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll appeared to show things going downhill for rock with 34% of Americans saying rock had a “negative impact” on society and only 4% saying it had a “positive impact.” Still, it continued to be incredibly popular, with a 2006 Ipsos/AP/Rolling Stone Poll and a 2013 CBS News Poll both finding rock and roll as the favorite type of music among Americans.

And what about hip hop and rap?

In a 2007 Princeton Survey Research Poll, 70% of Americans said they “rarely” or “never” listened to hip hop or rap. In the same poll, 62% of Americans said that hip hop was a “bad influence” on society and, when asked to elaborate on what made it a bad influence, they most often cited offensive language (47%), promoting violence or gangs (24%), and negative stereotypes of women (20%).

Jay-Z:

These criticisms have persisted over the years, and despite hip hop’s increased popularity during this century, as recently as 2015, a CBS News Poll still had rap and hip hop cited as the second hardest music genre to “enjoy” (29%), behind only heavy metal (36%).

But in the music biz, what really matters is the benjamins, and the latest data shows hip hop as the #1 streaming genre while rock is #1 in physical sales. Which brings us back to the Foo Fighters and Jay-Z entering the Hall of Fame this year.

Despite public concerns about how rock, hip hop, and rap impact society, Jay-Z and the Foo Fighters have had incredible success, winning 23 and 12 Grammys, respectively, selling millions of records, and becoming cultural icons.

Which may just show the oldest rule of pop music — if your parents hate it, it must be good.

College to Career interns Stefan Feibel and Patrick Beglane wrote this report.

Legal books and a gavel

Legal Abortion Challenge?

Roe v. Wade has been the law of the land for nearly half a century. Despite decades of majority support among Americans for the legal right to abortion, recent changes at the U.S. Supreme Court have potentially put Roe in question. And, a new case the court has agreed to hear may be the first realistic possibility for overturning the landmark ruling. Why now?

We’ve gone back to 1973 — when the Supreme Court determined that the Constitution protected a woman’s right to an abortion under the 14th Amendment — to see how public opinion has, or hasn’t, changed since that historic ruling. What we find is a majority of Americans have consistently supported a woman’s right to abortion in some circumstances.

In that year, Roe v. Wade moved abortion into the national political spotlight. When the Harris Poll asked Americans where they stood on the statement, “Many mothers have unwanted babies, and it is better to have abortions that are safe and legal,” 57% agreed, and 36% disagreed.

When other polls over time have asked a similarly dichotomous question on the abortion issue, support for abortion rights reflects these results.

In a 1980 CBS News/New York Times survey, the question posed to Americans was if a woman should be allowed to have an abortion if a doctor agreed to it. 62% said yes, 19% said no, and another 19% said “it depends” or did not have an opinion.

A decade later, a 1990 Time Magazine/CNN Poll took a different approach, asking Americans whether they favored or opposed a constitutional amendment banning abortion. 73% were against such an amendment, and 21% favored it.

At the turn of the century, in 2000, a NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll asked the straightforward question, should abortion be illegal, or not. 53% of Americans said they supported legal abortion, 35% said they did not.

In 2010, a CBS News/New York Times Poll asked if Americans thought Roe v. Wade was a “good thing” or a “bad thing.” 58% said it was a good thing, and 34% said bad thing.

When asked in the most recent Knights of Columbus/Marist Poll (January 2021) if Americans considered themselves to be pro-choice or pro-life, 53% said they were pro-choice, and 43% said pro-life.

Dichotomous questions, though, can push attitudes to the extremes. When asked on a six-point scale which allows respondents to weigh in on when abortion should be allowed, there is more nuance, with many Americans saying abortion should be allowed only under certain conditions.

According to that Knights of Columbus/Marist Poll, only 15% of Americans supported abortion at any point in a woman’s pregnancy, and an additional 10% reported abortion should be permitted within the first six months of pregnancy. At the other end of the spectrum, 12% reported abortion should never be allowed.

Nearly three in four Americans, though, reported significant restrictions should be placed on abortion: within the first three months of pregnancy (25%); only in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother (28%); or only to save the life of the mother (11%).

As Barbara Carvalho, Director of The Marist Poll, points out, the debate over abortion is complex:

“Especially in this time, where it’s so incredibly polarized, we have to make sure that we are also looking at the underlying beliefs that people have on the issue, not just at the poles…. If you look at what the consensus is, there is a very strong consensus about maintaining Roe v. Wade but also about having certain restrictions. ‘Abortion on demand’ is used as a polarizing phrase, and that is when people begin dividing up.”

How important an issue is abortion to Americans? Our September 2020 NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll sought to better understand the issues priorities of Americans. We provided a list of 12 issues, including abortion, and asked respondents which topic was most important to them. The results revealed that only 5% of Americans said abortion was their top issue. But, that’s not the whole story.

Which segments of Americans are in that 5% explains a lot about why Roe may be in jeopardy now. In that poll, white evangelical Christians and Republicans both said abortion was the 2nd most important issue to them after the economy.

There’s a lot of nuance that lies behind the abortion debate in America, but, when it comes to the question of priorities, abortion opponents find this topic more critical than do those who favor Roe.

Every Republican presidential nominee since Ronald Reagan has run on an explicitly anti-abortion, anti-Roe platform. During this same period, the Supreme Court has had 5 or fewer conservative justices; some of whom declined to vote to effectively overturn Roe v. Wade when given the chance.

Now, with 6 of 9 justices thought to be against most legal abortion, the idea of Roe being overturned is a real possibility. The question for people on both sides of the abortion debate then is, does the threat of Supreme Court action make it a more important issue to the large group of Americans who have never thought it a priority?

This post was written by Marist Poll “College 2 Career” intern Sarah DeBellis.

Silhouette of a ballot being dropped into a ballot box

Is New Voting Legislation the “New Normal”?

As businesses and schools begin to reopen, a slow return to normalcy is finally underway, but the impacts of the last year may foster long-lasting changes for American democracy. New voting legislation has been making headlines in the election’s wake, and public opinion on voting rights and trust in elections could be a crucial piece of the country’s “new normal.”

The 2020 election marked a watershed in U.S. elections. More Americans voted by mail than ever before, as a global pandemic continued to spread and death tolls rose. A contentious presidential election ended with cries of voter fraud from the former president and other political leaders, culminating in the U.S. Capitol riots on January 6.

Now, new voting legislation has emerged in states and in Congress. A new Georgia law overhauled election protocols about absentee ballots, early voting, and distributing food and drinks to voters waiting in lines. Similar legislation in Texas aims to add penalties to the voting process and empower pollwatchers. In Congress, the For the People Act passed in the House in March and aims to expand voting rights, alter the process for redistricting, and make campaign finances more transparent, among other changes.

This legislation presents a classic dilemma: what comes first? Laws or public opinions? Distrust is real, but where’s it coming from? Months after the 2020 election, fallout from the “Big Lie” continues to shake American confidence in the voting process. Three in 10 Americans do not believe that Joe Biden legitimately won the presidency last November, according to an April CNN poll.

More than distrust in election results, Americans have also expressed a lack of faith in the voting process itself. According to a Fox News Poll, 6 in 10 Americans are extremely or very concerned about voter suppression. Will changes to voting laws make voting more accessible or construct new barriers to civic duty?

That, too, is a topic on which many Americans divide –– in that April CNN Poll, 45% say these rules make voting too difficult, and 46% say the rules aren’t strict enough.

According to that CNN Poll, a majority of Americans believe there are certain changes states could implement to make elections more fair, including making early in-person voting available beyond normal business hours and on weekends (65%), requiring photo ID before voting (64%), and registering eligible voters automatically when they turn 18 years old (51%).

A plurality say that sending absentee ballot applications to every registered voter (42%) and allowing voter registration at polling places on Election Day (48%) would also make elections more fair. However, a plurality of Americans think that other changes would have the opposite effect and decrease the fairness of elections; for instance, 41% of Americans said limiting ballot drop boxes to only the hours when polls are open would make elections less fair.

Election Law Changes in Georgia

Disputes over voting rights came to a head in Georgia this spring. The Republican-led state legislature passed an overhaul of election laws, which Gov. Brian Kemp signed, calling it “another step toward ensuring our elections are secure, accessible, and fair.”

The bill provoked both controversy and consensus, according to a poll of Georgia voters by the University of Georgia. Some aspects garnered bipartisan support, including the requirement of two Saturdays for early in-person voting (75% support), while others drew the ire of both parties; namely, the ban on giving food and drinks to voters waiting in line (66% oppose).

In other cases, the poll revealed a split along party lines. For instance, a new provision requires voters to provide their driver’s license number as identification in order to vote via absentee ballot –– 93% of Georgia Republicans support the provision compared with 35% of state’s Democrats.

Overall, the bill bolstered the confidence of Georgia Republicans (82%) in elections, compared to just 17% of Democrats. While satisfaction with the changes varies greatly along party lines, the motivation behind the changes is clear to most Georgia voters: 72% believe that Trump’s loss in Georgia prompted the new law’s passage.

Georgia’s new law marks the first major elections overhaul in a battleground state following the 2020 election and indicates division over what Americans hope this “new normal” looks like. Georgia’s law, along with legislation in Texas and in Congress, begs the question: what will successfully restore Americans’ faith in the legitimacy of elections?

As the country continues to move toward some semblance of normalcy, the answers to that question will determine not only the landscape of voting legislation but the efficacy of the country’s functioning democracy.

College 2 Career Interns Sarah Lynch and Astrea Slezak wrote this report.

COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy

A recent Marist Poll revealed that 1 in 4 Americans say they will choose not to receive the coronavirus vaccine.

Meanwhile, experts say vaccinations will be a crucial tool to bring an end to the pandemic.

So, what’s holding back a quarter of Americans?

For most, the vaccine’s newness and uncertainty about its lasting effects play a primary role. Polls also reveal widespread confusion about the vaccine, in general, as a notable portion of Americans could not easily identify falsehoods about the vaccines. In fact, many said new information would not even change their minds.

With close to half the nation already in the vaccination process, Americans who are hesitant about the vaccine may face new challenges if some proposed vaccine mandates go into effect. Yet, even among those who are vaccinated, some appear reluctant to support new requirements.

Global Warming/Other Public Health Issues

Even as the vast majority of climate scientists warn that global warming has become a critical issue for the planet, most Americans are not much more concerned than they were 30 years ago. Why?

Often, with science-based issues like global warming, peoples’ attitudes have changed as scientists reach consensus. For example, as evidence of health risks related to smoking mounted, more people began to acknowledge the health risks.

Similarly, as research was conducted on the safety benefits of seat belts, more people began wearing them.

So, why hasn’t consensus on global warming shifted? To date, that’s an unanswered question.

This post was written by Marist Poll “College 2 Career” intern Astrea Slezak. 

Astronaut floating in space

Space Tourism

Space tourism is just around the corner, and for years pollsters asked Americans if they would go to space if they had the opportunity.

And? A majority said no.

Now in 2021, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, and Elon Musk’s SpaceX projects are soon to make space tourism a reality–at least for those willing to pay for it. The price tag for the 2022 Virgin Galactic suborbital space tourism flight is $250,000 for a three hour flight.

They’ve already sold 600 tickets.

With these companies making space tourism more than just a science fiction novel, is it a trip Americans are interested in taking? Let’s take a look back into Americans’ opinions of this issue with the price tag stripped away.

Starting in 1986, Americans were asked in a CBS News/New York Times Poll, “If you had a chance in your lifetime to travel to outer space, would you do so, or not?” At that time as the Space Shuttle program had made space travel routine, 54% of Americans said they would NOT go.

Almost a decade later in 1994, CBS News again asked the question and again roughly the same number (58%) said they had no interest in blasting off into space.

Once again in 1999, CBS News surveyed Americans on this question and the answers didn’t really change: 57% said they wouldn’t go into space, if they had the opportunity.

Two years later, the first “space tourist” paid $20 million to spend 8 days on the International Space Station (ISS). From the first recreational launch in 2001 to the last in 2009, there were six additional civilian visitors that paid a cool $20 million to spend a week in space.

But, did that change Americans’ minds about travelling to space? A 2004 CBS News Poll found the answer was no. This time 60% said no space travel for them.

And then CBS stopped asking the question.

So, a lot has changed since 2004. With commercialized flights to space being launched as soon as late 2021, space tourism is about to be an expensive new reality. Virgin’s short flights will cost a quarter million, but SpaceX’s 10-day trip to the ISS may cost as much as $50 million…per person.

Who’s going to pay that? Rumors say Leonardo Dicaprio, Tom Hanks, Justin Beiber, and Rihanna have all lined up to head into space with, at least, one of the companies.

If all goes well, though, prices would likely drop as space tourism becomes more common. And, Musk is already working on a rocket that can take 100 people to space at a time.

So, is it time to ask that question again? Would YOU go to space if you had the opportunity? Especially if someone else was paying?

Let’s find out. WE will be asking the question in an upcoming poll, 35 years after CBS asked the question for the first time. And, we’ll let you know what we find.

This post was written by Marist Poll “College 2 Career” intern Gabi Gervasi.

Earth is flat sign amidst protestors

Conspiracy vs. Legitimate News: Who Wins?

A faked moon landing, a coup d’etat to kill the president, and a planned terrorist attack are just a few of the most infamous American conspiracy theories. Today, the internet’s virality and the omnipresence of social media have conjured a breeding ground ripe for disinformation. And more conspiracies have emerged. 

Recently, a number of theories wrought notable and even violent consequences. Empowered by a rampant falsehood that Hillary Clinton was running a child sex trafficking ring in the basement of a pizza parlor in Washington, D.C., an armed man arrived at the location eager to put an end to the supposed activity. Just months ago, the armed insurrection of the U.S. Capitol on January 6 made clear how dangerous were the false claims that the 2020 election had been rigged.

But what about the facts? What about the role of a free and independent press to inform the public?

The confluence of historically low trust in news and the viral nature of conspiracy theories online has fostered a news environment rife with muddled facts and persistent disinformation.

2020 Election

The Conspiracy…

of Americans 

believe Joe Biden won the 2020 election due to

“voter fraud”

Monmouth

The Credible News…

of Americans 

say media coverage of the 2020 election after the polls closed was

“largely inaccurate”

Pew

Coronavirus

The Conspiracy…

of Americans

“believe that” or 

“don’t know if”

COVID-19 was created in a lab in China.

NPR/Ipsos

The Credible News…

of Americans

do not trust in news about COVID-19 from

National TV News

Axios/Ipsos

The influence of conspiracy theories has not gone unnoticed by Americans. Almost three-quarters (73%) of Americans believe that conspiracy theories in the U.S. are out of control, according to a Quinnipiac poll. That said, another poll from Quinnipiac reported that most are split on whether or not those beliefs are problematic (41%) or a definite crisis (34%). 

Regardless, it’s clear to Americans that conspiracy theories are gaining traction. Two years before the violent display at the Capitol on January 6, CBS News polled on conspiracy theories and found that a majority of Americans (59%) believed that people were more likely to believe in conspiracy theories than they were 25 years before. 

The difference could be attributed to rapid dissemination online: in fact in that same poll, most Americans (77%) seem to agree that this growing trend of belief or fascination with conspiracy theories is due to their growing presence on social media and the internet.

Examples of Conspiracy Posts on Social Media

More than simply facilitating the spread, social media has been the site of origin for new conspiracy theories, like QAnon. Originating on a message board in 2017, messages from a mysterious user, Q, caught fire and proliferated dark conspiracy theories –– most notably, the claim that Donald Trump was secretly leading the charge against Satanic pedophiles (who followers said were high-ranking Democrats and celebrities). 

A partisan divide appears evident in who espouses or condemns this theory, further amplifying the political and social impacts of the conspiracy –– of the Americans who had heard or read about QAnon, 9 in 10 Democrats said that it is a bad thing for the country while just half of Republicans agreed, according to the Pew Research Center.

Americans who said they believed or were unsure about whether a group of Satan-worshipping elites who run a child sex ring are attempting to control politics and the media.

The long lifespan of some conspiracy theories is evident according to results from a CBS News poll in 2018. Some famous examples –– John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the 1969 Apollo moon landings, and 9/11 –– show that a deeply-rooted conspiracy can live on for decades. Pop culture can play a significant role in firmly establishing these conspiracy theories; for instance, of the Americans who had seen the 1991 movie JFK, a quarter said it made them more likely to think there was a conspiracy behind the assassination, according to an ABC News poll.

How Many Americans Believe Classic Conspiracy Theories? (2018)

Conspiracy theories have emerged throughout history, particularly in times of crisis. While social media may help conspiracies spread, the past shows that it isn’t likely Facebook, Twitter and the like are the only reason we find ourselves awash in myths. That said, the viral nature of social media continues to play at least some role in the development and proliferation of modern-day conspiracies, begging the question: Who is responsible for the spread of misinformation online? And should anyone be held accountable for what users post?

The CEOs of Facebook, Twitter, and Google faced these questions last week before Congress. Who should be the arbiter of the truth remains a central question, one that has become more urgent as trust in news falters and conspiracies boom.

College 2 Career Interns Sarah Lynch and Astrea Slezak wrote this report.

COVID-19 and its Effect on Mental Health

Now that there’s light at the end of the tunnel, how bad is the damage?

From lost jobs to school closings and quarantines to social isolation, the effects of COVID-19 have gotten a lot of attention.

But, one impact has been less discussed: The state of our mental health.

Before the pandemic, during the first six months of 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found more than 1 in 10 adults (11%) in the U.S. reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder. Now, after a year of living through a global pandemic, the number has quadrupled. In January 2021, the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey found that 41% of U.S. adults reported similar symptoms.

And, it’s even worse among young adults, adults with job loss or income insecurity, and essential workers.

Young Adults

63% of Americans ages 18-24 reported symptoms of anxiety or depression in a CDC survey conducted during the pandemic in June 2020. And how are they coping? Young adults are about twice as likely to report increased or new substance use compared to all adults (25% vs. 13%) and more than twice as likely to have experienced increased or new suicidal thoughts (26% vs. 11%).

Let’s take an even closer look. College students appear to be the most affected within this age group. In research conducted last spring, 85% of college students said they had experienced high to moderate levels of distress — 45% of those students said they felt highly distressed.

Economically Stressed

People facing job loss and income insecurity due to COVID are showing that they are struggling with their mental health at a disproportionate rate, as well. In the December 2020 Household Pulse Survey, those who had not experienced job loss reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder at 32% while those who had reported symptoms at 53%.

Americans who face income insecurity show similar results. In a 2020 KFF poll looking at the negative mental health impacts of the pandemic, those who earn less than $40,000 a year reported feeling major negative mental health effects compared to those earning $90,000 or more (35% vs. 17%).

Essential Workers

Going into a second year of working on the frontlines of the pandemic, essential workers experienced symptoms of depression and anxiety at higher numbers than the general population. In a study published by the CDC in June 2020, 42% of essential workers experienced these symptoms as compared to 30% of non-essential workers.

As we saw with young adults, essential workers were about twice as likely to report increased or new substance use as non-essential workers (25% vs. 11%). Even more alarming is that essential workers were almost three times more likely to seriously consider suicide “in the past 30 days” than non-essential workers (22% vs. 8%).

While there have been many visibly negative effects of COVID, the impact on Americans’ mental health has been more hidden. These statistics may help explain why the new COVID relief bill is allocating $3.5 billion for block grants addressing substance use and mental health disorders.

If you are in crisis or you think you may have an emergency, call 911 immediately. If you’re having suicidal thoughts, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to talk to a trained counselor (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline). If you are located outside the United States, call your local emergency line immediately.

This post was written by Marist Poll “College 2 Career” intern Gabi Gervasi. 

Covid-19: Has it infected our dreams?

COVID has changed everything, including many of our dreams.

An Axios-Ipsos poll released March 9th shows that one in three Americans have experienced strange or vivid dreams in the past month, with fewer than 10% of those being directly COVID-19 related.

“It was like the zombie apocalypse but slower, calmer.”

This excerpt is from one of hundreds of often vivid COVID-related dreams submitted to the i dream of covid website since it launched a year ago.

Frontiers, a peer-reviewed, open science journal, published a study in October 2020 examining dream content during the pandemic and evaluating how it affected people’s dreams and nightmares. It found 26% of those studied experienced nightmares.

Everyone dreams, even if they do not remember doing so.

Experts state that nightmares and recurring dreams may be how we work out stressful waking experiences. And some research has shown increased nightmare activity is related to trauma. So, what exactly are people dreaming about? And, could it clue us into what anxieties are circulating among the population?

Kelly Bulkeley of the Sleep and Dream Database partnered with Michael Schredl of the Central Institute of Mental Health to conduct a scientific survey analyzing dreaming during the pandemic.

Out of those experiencing COVID-related dreams, about a third were related to pandemic control measures such as social distancing and wearing masks. Roughly another third were about being sick, or a loved one being sick. The final group of dream content was not directly related to the actual virus, but rather “other” topics. One example presented in the “other” section was a dream about the president not having urgency to face the pandemic and leaving people sick or dying.

So, is it simply that we are stressed, and we’re dreaming about what stresses us?

In short, yes. And, some of these dreams are wildly elaborate.

Some dreams posted to i dream of covid sound like bizarre science fiction movies:  “In my dream, the virus Covid19 was not an infectious pathogen, but an organized group of people—like some sort of sinister army. The overarching idea of the dream was to evade capture by this group.”

An entire year has gone by with COVID affecting our every waking hour. Now we know it’s invaded our non-waking time, as well, with pandemic fever dreams play out in our sleep

This post was written by Marist Poll “College 2 Career” intern Astrea Slezak.