How Will the Westat-Stanford COVID Survey Data Help Us Move Forward?

Timothy Mulcahy

Insightful data from the Westat and Stanford University School of Medicine Coronavirus Attitudes and Behaviors Survey on the pandemic’s effects on Americans are now available. This data set provides a rich resource for policymakers, researchers, and the public to examine and make use of in helping the country move forward as we emerge from the pandemic. The nationally representative survey was conducted in May 2020.

Maeve Gearing

The first data release, How Are Americans Coping Financially with COVID-19?, showed that Americans were sharply divided between those who were financially struggling and those who were not. The data demographics indicated that those who were struggling were already financially vulnerable coming into the pandemic.

In the second data release, What Worries Americans Most About COVID-19?, we shared data from open-ended responses from close to 90% of survey participants about their major concerns and how they have responded to the pandemic. “We’ve never seen the level of response that we received from these open-ended questions,” says Timothy Mulcahy, Westat Vice President and Practice Director for Social Policy and Economics Research, who is the Principal Investigator for Westat. “People don’t generally fill them out.” Respondents were bracing in their honesty about their concerns about illness and death, lack of health care resources, uncontrolled spread of the virus, economic and social impact of shutdowns, and lack of leadership.

Of particular interest in the second release, notes Westat’s Maeve Gearing, Ph.D., was the issue of individuals who were “informationally vulnerable,” those who were most worried about pandemic restrictions: “They fared well economically during the pandemic, but they may have a higher risk of contracting (and perhaps spreading) COVID because they do not perceive it as a threat.” In sum, she adds, this research suggests the need for nuanced policy approaches.

This third and last release of data are available through a Westat partnership with Metadata Technology North America (MTNA). “Through MTNA’s Rich Data Services (RDS) API platform, users will be able to download the de-identified dataset and supporting documentation, use the RDS Explorer feature to browse the data online, perform simple analyses, and aggregate the data across multiple dimensions,” explains Dr. Gearing. Visit the Coronavirus Attitudes and Behaviors Survey Data Center for more information.

This makes the Westat-Stanford COVID Attitudes and Behaviors Survey part of Rich Data Services’ COVID-19 Data Center. The Data Center provides a centralized library of multiple COVID-19 surveys, including data from The Johns Hopkins University, the COVID Tracking Project, U.S. state and national data, and Canadian COVID surveys. Westat will be the first private research firm to release data to the project.

“Westat has always stood for the highest quality research. And the best research is not only about answering clients’ questions, it is about doing so transparently. With this release, we hope to encourage others to make their data accessible and foster collaboration between researchers, policymakers, and companies, to respond to emerging evidence and answer questions of interest to us all,” adds Dr. Gearing.

Read more about how the survey was designed and managed: COVID-19: How Has It Changed Americans’ Attitudes and Behaviors?

Westat has always stood for the highest quality research. And the best research is not only about answering clients’ questions, it is about doing so transparently. With this release, we hope to encourage others to make their data accessible and foster collaboration between researchers, policymakers, and companies, to respond to emerging evidence and answer questions of interest to us all

- Maeve Gearing, Ph.D., a Westat Senior Study Director

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