POLL: Most Americans want to permanently ditch the handshake after the coronavirus. Here’s what they think it should be replaced with.

President Donald Trump turns away as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reaches out to shake his hand before the State of the Union address in the House chamber on February 4, 2020 in Washington, DC. Leah Millis-Pool/Getty Images
  • More than half of Americans surveyed in a new Business Insider/Survey Monkey poll said the handshake should disappear permanently after the COVID-19 pandemic ends.
  • Handshakes have been put on hold due to social distancing recommendations and requirements, and the nation’s top coronavirus expert has suggested handshakes end forever.
  • More than 20% of over those who want it replaced said a wave should replace the handshake.
  • Other suggestions included the “Wakanda forever” salute from “Black Panther”, the “Vulcan salute” from “Star Trek”, and “jazz hands.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Handshakes have been put on pause amid the coronavirus pandemic – and they may never come back if some Americans get their way.

The handshake has existed in some form for thousands of years, according to History.com. The handshake likely originated as a way for people to greet each other in a way that showed they were not concealing a weapon in their hand.

Historians believe that the handshake as we know it didn’t exist until around the late 17th century when Quakers began using it as a greeting that was “more egalitarian” than a bow or a tip of the hat. By the 19th Century, handshakes were a commonplace greeting.

But in the age of the coronavirus pandemic, which has temporarily pushed humans six or more feet apart, handshakes are but a distant memory – and some think they should stay gone.

More than half of more than 1,000 Americans surveyed in a new Business Insider/Survey Monkey poll said handshakes should stay gone once the pandemic ends.

Respondents were asked, “Given that they can be a vector for transmission of disease, some public health officials have suggested replacing the customary handshake with an alternative greeting. What are your views on this?”

  • 11% said “I think we should continue shaking hands as a greeting.”
  • 36% said “I’m not sure.”
  • 54% said “I think we should transition to an alternative greeting,” and then suggested a fill-in-the-blank solution.
Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell elbow bump
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., left, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., right, bump elbows. AP Photo/Susan Walsh

It’s not a wild train of thought. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who has been at the forefront of the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic, has even suggested we should part ways with the centuries-old greeting entirely.

“As a society, just forget about shaking hands,” Fauci told a reporter in April. “We don’t need to shake hands. We’ve got to break that custom.”

He added: “Because as a matter of fact, that is one of the major ways you can transmit a respiratory-borne illness.”

But if not a handshake, then what?

Avengers Infinity War Wakanda Black Panther Hulkbuster
Chadwick Boseman, the Black Panther. Marvel Studios/Disney

Those who responded to the poll had several …interesting … ideas of how society could adapt to a post-COVID-19 world where handshakes go the way of the cassette tape.

Of those who offered alternatives, 22% suggested a wave would be an appropriate greeting. But is a wave formal enough? It’s a bid odd to envision world leaders – picture President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel – greeting each other with a wave.

About 15% of those who want to retire handshakes thought a simple verbal greeting was sufficient in lieu of grabbing hands, 14% said a nod would be best, and 8% suggested a bow.

Just under 4% of the respondents suggested a fist-bump. (It’s worth noting it’s not clear if this would significantly reduce the risk of virus transmission, as it still requires physical contact.) Similarly, one person surveyed suggested a high-five greeting.

Clearly, the inevitable alteration to the social contract will be a matter of great debate, but several respondents offered not-yet popularised, but inspired, options for the successor to the handshake.

One person suggested we greet each other using “jazz hands.”

Neil degrasse tyson star trek vulcan salute
Neil deGrasse Tyson gives the ‘Vulcan salute’ from ‘Star Trek.’ William Wei, Business Insider

Six people who were polled suggested the popular “Vulcan salute,” which was popularised by the 1960s television series “Star Trek,” for a handshake substitute.

Another person suggested we swap handshakes for the “Wakanda Forever” salute, popularised by Marvel’s 2018 box office hit “Black Panther.” Ryan Coogler, the film’s director, said in 2018 that the salute was inspired by the way pharaohs are laid to rest as well as from West African sculptures.

The respondent, who said they were a medical worker and that the greeting had been adopted by colleagues, added that the salute means “hug” in American Sign Language.

Some experts believe social distancing will be necessary over the next two years, so even if the handshake doesn’t disappear forever, it might be worth considering some of these alternatives.

SurveyMonkey Audience polls from a national sample balanced by census data of age and gender. Respondents are incentivized to complete surveys through charitable contributions. Generally speaking, digital polling tends to skew toward people with access to the internet. SurveyMonkey Audience doesn’t try to weigh its sample based on race or income. A total of 1,107 respondents were collected April 10-11, 2020, with a margin of error plus or minus 3 percentage points and a 95% confidence level.