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ASU poll finds deep worry over economic impacts of pandemic

More than half of ASU poll respondents have faced economic loss from pandemic.
May 26, 2020

Arizonans not ready to return to theaters, sports right away, Morrison survey finds

The COVID-19 pandemic is having tough economic impacts on Arizonans, with fewer work hours as well as job losses and furloughs, according to a new poll by Arizona State University.

About 80% of the 813 respondents said they are “very concerned” or “concerned” about both the economy and the health of their loved ones and essential workers, according to the poll that was conducted by the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at ASU in conjunction with the Arizona Republic.

“These data points are a snapshot in time,” said Andrea Whitsett, director of the institute, which is a nonpartisan center that researches policy issues such as education, health and safety.

The “Perceptions of the Pandemic and Its Effects” poll was taken April 24 to May 7, before the state’s “soft” reopening on May 8. More surveys will be needed to fully see the impact of the pandemic, Whitsett said.

“This is a rapidly evolving situation,” she said in a webinar that showed the results.

“But you look at this data and it invites further inquiry and qualitative research that can help us answer the ‘why.’”

More than half of the respondents who were working before the pandemic have experienced negative economic consequences: 27% are working fewer hours, 14% lost their jobs and 11% have been furloughed. Those most likely to be affected by furloughs and layoffs are in the 18–24 age group, those with lower incomes and those without a college degree. Five percent of respondents said they lost health insurance.

In one of the most interesting results, 16% of all respondents reported that they had missed a rent or mortgage payment, but among people in households earning more than $150,000, it was 35%. There could be several reasons for that, according to David Schlinkert, senior policy analyst for the Morrison Institute.

“Something we brainstormed as a team was that potentially, people are refinancing and not paying (the mortgage) for a month,” he said.

“This doesn’t ask if it’s a primary residence, so you could have individuals with multiple homes that aren’t paying, and you could also have people using rental properties in Airbnb and VRBO and if they have lots of them, they’re not paying rent,” he said.

Overall, more than two-thirds of respondents report that they have reduced their spending, and 40% say they are struggling financially due to the pandemic.

The survey asked more than 100 questions on a wide variety of topics. Other results include:

Curtailing activities

The overwhelming majority of respondents — 85% — say they are taking precautions to avoid catching and/or spreading COVID-19.

But 44% said they are upset that they have been forced to discontinue normal activities.

Mental health

Overall, 38% of respondents reported that their mental health has suffered under the pandemic.

The highest percentages of people agreeing that their mental health suffered were those who identify as nonbinary, 67%; those with a household income of $150,000 or more, 58%; people who identify as LGBTQ, 55%; those in the 35-44 age group, 52%; those who have earned a master’s degree or higher, 51%; and people who live in urban areas, 48%.

The new normal

Nearly 20% said they used telemedicine for the first time since the start of the pandemic, and 84% of those people were satisfied with it.

About 23% percent of respondents did not work from home before the pandemic but were doing so when they were polled, while 31% were still going to their place of employment as usual.

Also, 60% of all respondents believe teleworking is effective and 55% believe it should continue, although 55% also believe it reduces important personal connections.

More than half of the respondents — 57% — agreed that the November general election should be conducted by all-mail ballot.

Venturing out

The poll, taken before the state started reopening May 8, found some hesitation in immediately going back out.

About 25% of respondents said it would take “weeks” for them to feel ready to go to movie theaters and bars, while 40% said “months or longer.” Overall, 48% said it would take “months or longer” for them to feel comfortable going to sporting events.

Government response

When asked about the response to the pandemic, 42% say their K-12 school administration has been “excellent” or “good.” The rating of “excellent” or “good” for other institutions: state government, 35%; federal government, 32%; county, 31%, and municipal, 27%.

Of the respondents who are American Indian or Alaska Natives, 29% said their tribal government’s response was “excellent” or “good.”

When asked to respond to the statement, “The right balance has been struck between civil liberties and public health in the COVID-19 response,” 48% agreed. But 34% agreed that “No, more priority should be placed on public health,” and 18% agreed that “More priority should be placed on civil liberties.”

School worries

Three-quarters of respondents say they have the necessary technology for their children to fully engage in learning, and two-thirds say their children are doing so. About 57% are satisfied with the educational opportunities offered by their school, but 53% worry their children will fall behind.


There were some differences by political party.

While overall, 33% of respondents agreed with the statement that people are overreacting to the pandemic, the breakdown by political party was: Democrats, 25%, Republicans, 41%, Green Party, 75%; Libertarian, 50%; unregistered, 31%.

Republicans were more likely to agree that the damage to the economy is worse than the impact on public health: 63% compared with 41% of Democrats and 50% overall.

Democrats were more likely than Republicans to agree that the November election should be done by mail: 74% compared with 45%.

And there was a wide split on agreement with the statement, “The U.S. should provide health coverage for all citizens:" Democrats, 81%; Republicans, 36%; overall, 61%.

Gender differences

Men are more likely to agree with the statement, “I think people are overreacting to COVID-19:" 41%, compared with 25% of women. Overall, 33% of respondents agreed.

Men are more likely to agree that they’re upset that they’ve been forced to discontinue normal activities: 49% compared with 39% of women.

Men are also more likely to agree that the damage to the economy will be worse than the impact of COVID-19 on public health: 56% compared with 44% of women. Overall, 50% of respondents agreed with that statement.

Differences by income

Affluent Arizonans had differing views about the pandemic. Of people in households earning more than $150,000:

• 56% agreed that people are overreacting, compared with 33% overall.

• 62% are upset at being forced to discontinue normal activities, compared with 44% overall.  

• 62% say the federal response has been “excellent” or “good” compared with 32% overall and 18% of people earning less than $25,000.

• 88% in this group say their children are actively engaged in learning compared with 53% of those with household incomes below $25,000. Yet 87% of the wealthiest group are concerned that the pandemic’s disruption will decrease their children’s likelihood of graduating from high school, compared with 43% overall.

Some bright spots

More than half the respondents — 53% — say they are cooking more during the pandemic, while 28% are exercising more.

About 19% have increased charitable giving, 28% are helping neighbors more frequently and 29% are supporting small businesses.

“It’s always nice to have a little bit of good news during these tough times,” said Erica Quintana, senior policy analyst.

Morrison Institute Pandemic Poll

Top image of Tempe by Deanna Dent/ASU Now. Infographic by Alex Cabrera/ASU Media Relations and Strategic Communications.

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News


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ASU architecture students experience 'life-changing' Roden Crater during housing-design project

May 26, 2020

Class proposes temporary lodging designs that create sense of community for those working on remote large-scale art installation

Sixteen Arizona State University architecture students were tapped to provide design work around one of the most important large-scale artworks in the world — Roden Crater, the installation created by James Turrell in northern Arizona.

The undergraduates participated in a fourth-year studio course this spring that had a unique assignment: propose designs for temporary housing for construction crews who are working on Roden Crater.

The students were able to visit the crater, an immersive observatory inside a dormant volcano that is seen by only a few hundred people every year. The artwork is still under construction and is not yet open to the public.

The experience was awe-inspiring, and the project was a challenge, according to Marc Neveu, head of the architecture program in The Design School at ASU.

The remote area has no access to power and water, and the housing had to be out of sight from the crater itself. The goal is to preserve the surrounding natural environment.

“So it was complicated for a whole list of reasons,” Neveu said.

About an hour drive from Flagstaff, Roden Crater is on a dirt road and remains closed to the public. Inside the crater, which is a volcanic cinder cone, Turrell has designed over 20 chambers and spaces to experience celestial events and seasonal alignments. At any one time, there are several dozen construction workers carrying out Turrell’s vision.

“James Turrell thought it would be interesting to think about temporary housing for these contractors,” Neveu said. “And we were thinking about other groups of people who could be working there — archeologists and students, who would all be short-term.

“So the question of community came up. How do you build community?”

About three weeks into the semester, the group visited Roden Crater, which has several installations within the cone, including a 900-foot-long tunnel that plays with the view at the end.

“Walking through the tunnel, I knew what was going to happen,” Neveu said. “I knew that the circle would become an eclipse, but there’s moment of magic when you see it that you just can’t describe.

“It’s an uncanny experience, and it’s hard to find the words.”

Dellan Raish was one of the students in the class.

“To be inside and experience that with your own perception and eyes was life-changing,” Raish said.

“The way he tunes each space to capture the light and give you a different perspective on the sky is like sensory overload.”

Each student in the class created their own version of a low-impact, flexible, temporary group of dwellings.

“In terms of construction, they looked at different things, like rammed earth, which has a zero carbon footprint,” Neveu said.

“The material is right there, and the walls can go back into the ground if people leave.”

Other students, including Nasrynn Chowdhury, proposed prefabricated dwellings.

“It had to be temporary so we weren’t meant to be building with concrete,” she said.

“I decided to do a series of structures that would be made in a factory and brought to the site. They would be on these steel screw-pile foundations so they didn’t touch the ground.”

The dwellings could be removed with nothing left on the ground except a few holes.

Chowdhury took a highly flexible approach.

“It has a movable kitchen that’s able to slide into each unit,” she said. “During the night you can make the space into a bedroom and during the day you can create a larger space with both units and slide the kitchen out.

“I understood there would be different needs. Construction workers might want to rest while students might want to be more social.”

Raish designed two rows of buildings with a courtyard in the middle.

“That was to save power and water and by turning off different wings of the buildings when people are not occupying them,” he said.

Seeing Turrell’s work was profound for the students.

“They balanced the extremely practical with the poetic and tried to not just think about the crater, but how a building orients a person in the landscape,” Neveu said.

“You see the Painted Desert miles away and the San Francisco Peaks miles away. The quality of the light and the quality of the sky is very different from here, and that informed a lot of the projects.”

After spring break, the course moved to Zoom because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The students used breakout rooms in the online platform to continue collaborating.

In a typical studio course, the end of the semester brings a review in which the students formally present their projects to three or four experts. Instead, this class had a huge Zoom gathering in which the students presented to 45 experts from around the world.

“Presenting in front of people can sometimes get the best of you,” Chowdhury said. “But because this was on Zoom, it felt a lot more interactive because everyone was seeing the same thing and they were able to write comments directly into it, which made it feel more like a workshop rather than not really understanding their feedback.”

Raish said that at the more formal presentations, students almost “black out.”

“Most of the time, students don’t remember what anyone is saying, but this was one of my best reviews because we could record it and watch it back,” he said.

The students’ proposals will be collected and presented to Turrell later this summer.

The architecture studio was part of a burgeoning partnership between Turrell and ASU that has led to the development of ongoing academic experimentation. Several ASU students visited Roden Crater last year as part of four pilot lab courses.

Neveu is teaching an iCourse starting July 1 called “James Turrell and Roden Crater: Working at the Intersection of Art, Design, Science and Technology,” which will examine the installation from different perspectives. The course has no prerequisites and is open to anyone.

While Roden Crater is open only to invited guests while under construction, anyone can experience Turrell’s work manipulating light and perception. “Air Apparent,” just south of Biodesign C on ASU’s Tempe campus, was installed in 2012 and is open to the public 24 hours a day. Part of Turrell’s Skyspace series, “Air Apparent” is best enjoyed at sunset.

Top photo: Marc Neveu (left), head of the architecture program in The Design School at ASU, and his students pose for a group photo near Roden Crater in northern Arizona. Photo courtesy of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News