Poll: Most Americans say enhanced benefits encourage people to stay unemployed

Yahoo Finance and the Harris Poll asked Americans about government efforts to help those facing economic hardships as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most Americans said they think enhanced jobless benefits discourage people from going back to work. The Harris Poll CEO Will Johnson joins Yahoo Finance's On the Move Panel.

Video Transcript

ADAM SHAPIRO: Welcome back to Yahoo Finance On the Move, we're watching markets right now. Dow is up a little bit more than 210 points, S&P 500 is up more than 20 points, Nasdaq is up more than 25 points. Want to talk about a new Yahoo Finance Harris Poll and the co-CEO, Will Johnson, of the Harris Poll company is joining us along with Jessica Smith to break down what these numbers are telling us.

And welcome, both of you, to On the Move. I want to start with this one, and I'll start with you Mr. Johnson. When we talk about jobs and people working, 62% of the people that were polled responded by saying they think that the unemployment checks that they're receiving discourage a return to work. Can you tell us more about this?


WILL JOHNSON: Yeah, they're-- and thanks for having me on. There is definitely a majority who see that what could be implied is overgenerous unemployment benefits could discourage returning to work. That said, a clear majority-- again, well over 60%-- want to continue those benefits.

So, I think what we're seeing is people are generally supportive of the intervention the government's taking. And given the level of fear and anxiety people have, both for their health and for the economy, they don't want to do anything that could potentially disrupt that. And I think they also really understand the gravity of the pandemic we're facing and that a lot of people are in need of support.

JESSICA SMITH: Hi, Will, Jessica Smith here. When you look at the unemployment benefits and people wanting them to continue, it showed the majority actually did not want them to continue past August. Why do you think you see that shift once you start talking about extending these unemployment benefits further than just one month ahead?

WILL JOHNSON: I think, to the earlier point that indefinite extension of unemployment benefits people fear would potentially slow down getting back to work, and we see a huge majority that they just want to get back to their lives they want to get back to work. So I think that's where you see that. Now, it'll be interesting that trend that number as we track with you all to see if that continues to push out as the-- depending on the pandemic. I think where we are in the state of the pandemic will drive people's appetite for extending those benefits further.

JESSICA SMITH: The other interesting thing-- it's Julie here. The other interesting finding in the poll is that as people start to go out more-- they're going to restaurants, maybe they're going back to work-- that most people said they would not necessarily sue if they got COVID after going to one of these places. They wouldn't necessarily hold the establishments liable. And it's also interesting given that a lot of those establishments are getting people to sign waivers right now, before they take advantage of various services.

WILL JOHNSON: Completely. Less than a third of the respondents in the survey felt like they would be inclined to sue a business they went to or even if they went back to work, their employer. So I think what you're seeing there is an understanding that one, the gravity of what we're facing and two, that there is no one to blame and everyone's sort of trying their best to get back to some semblance of normalcy and get the economy going, given extremely difficult circumstances. So big consensus there.

JESSICA SMITH: Another idea that the poll found was really popular is this idea of a back to work bonus. What's your takeaway, when you look at just how popular that idea and maybe other incentives for companies to bring back their employees were?

WILL JOHNSON: Yes. This was-- this had overwhelming support. A lot, you know touching mid 70% range as far as support. People, again, are very supportive of the sort of government intervention to help and believe that that's a big key to what's keeping the economy stable during this time. And so they feel anything that the government can do to encourage employers to bring people back would be great.

There's still a lot of fear. There's still a lot of anxiety, both about the economy and about well-being. And so any steps the government can take that consumers feel will help get them back to some normalcy is viewed as a big win.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Will Johnson, the Harris Poll company-- the Harris Poll co-CEO, as well as Jessica Smith, thank you for being here On the Move. And want to point out that Jessica's got two articles about this new poll and the results on the page.