U.S. poll suggests Americans sharply divided on use of contact tracing apps

Apple Google Partner On Covid 19 Contact Tracing Technology
Apple Google Partner On Covid 19 Contact Tracing Technology (Image credit: Apple)

What you need to know

  • The Washington Post has conducted a random national poll.
  • They asked participants whether they would use a smartphone app to help trace the spread of the virus.
  • The results suggest opinion is sharply divided on the matter.

A recent Washington Post poll has shown that Americans are sharply divided over the prospect of using a contact tracing app to track whether they had been put at risk of infection.

Results of the poll were published this week, in which 1,008 adults were surveyed at random over the phone.

They were asked questions about how they rated the response of President Trump and their state governor to the virus, as well as whether they were worried about being infected by the virus. (If you're interested, 60% said they were either 'somewhat' or 'very' worried.

One of the possible solutions to the pandemic is the use of contact tracing, whereby smartphones are used to determine if you've been in contact with someone who may have had COVID-19. Participants were asked:

Apple and Google have proposed creating a smartphone app that would tell users whether they have been physically close to someone who has been diagnosed with the coronavirus. The app would rely on people anonymously reporting if they have been diagnosed in the app. If this smartphone app were available today, would you definitely use it, probably use it, probably not use it or definitely not use it?

Now, only 82% of those surveyed had a smartphone. Of that number, exactly 50% said they either 'definitely' or 'probably' would use the app, and exactly 50% said they 'definitely' or 'probably' would not. Of all the adults surveyed, that translates as 41% yes, 41% no, and 18% of whom did not have a smartphone.

When asked whether people would be comfortable or uncomfortable with this app sharing a coronavirus diagnosis anonymously to inform people who had been close to them, 59% said they would be comfortable, and only 40% said they would uncomfortable. (1% said they had no opinion.)

These results are incredibly interesting because one of the key aspects of contact tracing is that it needs to be used by a large majority of the population (estimates usually state 80%) for it to be effective. As you'll note from this survey, that would mean that almost everyone with a smartphone would need to be on board with the idea, and that isn't the case. If this is truly representative, it would indicate that only around 41% of people would be happy to download a contact tracing app.

Do you agree, would you be happy to download a contact tracing app, or would you not? Perhaps you need more information about these apps, let us know in the poll below!

Stephen Warwick