While there is finally some belief that the coronavirus situation in the U.S. is improving, most Americans feel that it’s time to reopen our economy, schools, and other institutions that represent “regular” life – with the caveat the social distancing and mask-wearing are explicitly encouraged. In fact, support for re-opening jumps from 49-38 percent to 60-31 percent when those caveats are added, according to new policy research conducted in August by The Winston Group for The Congressional Institute. We are pleased to present this analysis.

As we continue figuring out how to live lives impacted by both the virus itself and the economic fallout, research indicates that regardless of party, Americans are ready to get busy living again. However, the sequence is important: to get the economy moving again, we have to defeat the virus.

The state of the virus and reopening are among the top issues consuming people. Next to that, the economy and job as well as health care take precedence. When looked at from the perspective of political parties, Republicans tend be seen as stronger on the issues of jobs and economic growth while Democrats tend to have an edge on health care.

While millions continue to watch the labor market from the sidelines, we are starting to see signs of improvement. We have a long way to go, though. Here’s how an article from CNBC described the country going into 2020:

Hotel construction around the country had never been busier. Airline employment continued to climb to the highest levels in more than 16 years. Retail sales in December were up for a third straight month. And consumer spending reached an annual record of $13.28 trillion in 2019.

Contrast that with where we are today and it becomes all the more important for lawmakers to present a long-term focus for rejuvenating our economy.

One of the key findings from the research is that although people would like to go back to pre-COVID (known as “The Before Times” on social media), many do see the opportunity to make structural reforms to society. There have been a number of Federal regulations and policies lifted to speed up getting help to people who need it. Offering and improving services like telemedicine, e-learning platforms, and video platforms to conduct business have become critical.

As we dive into the research, we find that the workplace and how much people telecommute, small businesses, the travel industry, education, and health care were among the top things that people say are most changed – and some of those changes are likely permanent. There seems to be less consensus on whether restaurants will permanently change, and we’re seeing many innovative ideas on seating (would you prefer indoor or outdoor?), service, as well as an increase in delivery services and carryout options, even among fine-dining establishments.

Most people believe that the skills needed for the workforce will permanently change by a margin of 35-48 (with 48 percent believing the change will be permanent). There’s an interesting split between part-time workers and full-time employees, though. Part-time workers were particularly likely to see permanent changes (30-56, with 56 percent seeing permanent change) while full-time workers came in at 44-43 (with 43 percent seeing permanent change).

But – because there’s always a “but” – structural reform needs to be approached in a way that does not point to social engineering to entice Republicans and others who are open to changes in areas such as improving technology in education and health care.

We’ll look at other issues examined in The Winston Group’s research in a second blog post so stay tuned.

For the full report click, “America’s Views of Public Policy Proposals and Goals.”