CNN Poll: Nearly 4 in 10 Americans think Covid-19 precautions are here to stay, but others have already returned to their pre-pandemic normal
By Ariel Edwards-Levy, CNN
(CNN) -- Most of the public continues to take precautions to guard against the risks of Covid-19 and nearly 4 in 10 Americans think they'll continue doing so for the foreseeable future, according to a new CNN Poll conducted by SSRS.
More than half, 55%, say the risk of coronavirus remains high enough that they think it is still necessary to take extra precautions in their everyday lives. Thirty-eight percent anticipate they'll continue taking these extra precautions going forward, with just 17% believing they'll eventually feel safe enough to return to their pre-pandemic habits. Another 45% say they already feel safe enough to carry out everyday life largely the way it was before the pandemic, up from 36% in a survey conducted in August and early September.
This divide in Americans' approaches to Covid mirrors a broader rift in views of how the nation should be handling the pandemic, the poll finds. Those still taking precautions also largely favor mitigation policies put in place by the government or other institutions: 72% believe the government has a role to play in limiting the spread of Covid-19, 70% consider vaccination requirements an acceptable way of raising vaccination rates and 74% favor mask requirements in public indoor spaces.
Among the smaller share who've returned to their pre-pandemic normal, 66% consider vaccination requirements an infringement on personal rights, 82% believe mask-wearing should be optional and 65% believe that the government cannot effectively limit the spread of the virus.
The dwindling minority who remain unvaccinated are the least likely to say they're factoring the pandemic into their lives in other ways. Two-thirds of unvaccinated adults say that they're not currently taking any precautions against coronavirus, compared with 39% of those who've been vaccinated.
The results come amid widespread but ebbing concerns about the virus. A 62% majority of Americans still say they're at least somewhat worried about the coronavirus pandemic in their communities -- 22% say they're very worried, down from 41% in a poll taken in August and early September. Roughly 62% of Americans say the pandemic was a factor for them in making holiday plans this year, but only 30% call it a major factor. Even among those who say they're currently taking Covid precautions, fewer than half say that the pandemic was a major factor in their plans.
Overall, a 55% majority of Americans say they believe the government can take effective action to limit the spread of coronavirus, while 44% say the government cannot effectively limit the spread of coronavirus. About 4 in 10 say the US government is doing the right amount to control the spread of coronavirus in the country, standing in contrast to wide majorities who say they want further government action on some economic issues and violent crime. A quarter say the government is doing too much, and another 34% that it's doing too little.
President Joe Biden currently holds a 54% approval rating for his handling of the pandemic, higher than his overall approval rating and well above his numbers on other issues including the economy. About half of Americans, 49%, say they're somewhat or very confident that Biden will make the right decisions about handling new variants of the coronavirus, with a similar 51% expressing confidence in their states' governments. More have confidence in the people living in their communities (58%) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (68%) to handle variants, while fewer have confidence in Congress (35%). Just 31% of Americans say they're very confident in the CDC, with even fewer expressing high confidence in any of the other people or institutions listed. Only 21% are very confident in Biden, 14% in their states' governments, 11% in their communities and just 6% in Congress.
Slightly more than half of the public, 54%, says that requiring proof of Covid-19 vaccination for everyday activities outside of the home is an acceptable way to increase the vaccination rate, rather than an unacceptable infringement on personal rights. In September, a similar 51% found such mandates acceptable.
A larger majority of the public favors the efforts by the federal government to impose new workplace vaccine rules that include an alternate testing option. Six in 10 say they'd support mandating businesses with 100 or more employees to require their workers either to be vaccinated against coronavirus or to get tested for the virus at least once a week.
Half of those interviewed in the survey were asked how effective Covid-19 vaccines are generally, while the other half were asked how effective they are against severe disease and hospitalization, and the poll suggests little difference in perceptions of the vaccines' effectiveness either way. An 80% majority of Americans say that based on what they've heard, read and seen, the vaccines in use in the US are somewhat or very effective, with a similar 76% saying they believe them to be effective against severe disease and hospitalization, specifically.
An 82% majority of all those surveyed believe that the shots are safe. Only 34% of unvaccinated adults say they consider the vaccines even somewhat safe and an average of just 31% in the combined results of the two questions on effectiveness think they're even somewhat effective, reflecting the challenging level of resistance among remaining holdouts. By contrast, 95% of those who've been vaccinated think the vaccines are safe and 91% see them as effective.
Americans are roughly split on their preferences for mask requirements in public, indoor spaces like stores, workplaces, movie theaters and restaurants. About half, 49%, say everyone should be required to wear a mask in these settings, while 51% say people should be able to choose whether they wear masks.
Measurements of the public's appetite for specific Covid policies can vary somewhat from poll to poll, depending on the specific framing. In a Monmouth University poll also released this week, 46% of Americans supported requiring people to show proof of vaccination in order to go to work in an office or other public setting, down from 51% in November. A 55% majority of Americans in that poll wanted face masks and social distancing guidelines to be in place in their states. In a new Axios-Ipsos poll released Tuesday , 64% of Americans favored state or local mask mandates, and 54% of those who were employed supported vaccine mandates in their own workplaces.
Polling, however, has consistently found divides along partisan lines. In the CNN poll, three-quarters of Democrats believe the government can take effective action against the pandemic, compared with only one-third of Republicans who say the same. An 82% majority of Democrats, compared with 48% of independents and 26% of Republicans, say they consider vaccine mandates acceptable.
There are also divides within each party, the CNN survey finds. Democrats 45 and older are 10 percentage points likelier than younger Democrats to say that mandates for everyday activities are an acceptable way to increase vaccination rates, with a similar 11-point split between younger and older independents. Republicans 45 and older are 13 points likelier than younger Republicans to say the same. On the GOP side, self-described moderate or liberal Republicans are 31 points likelier to find mandates acceptable than are conservative members of the party.
More than three-quarters of US adults have now received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and 36% say they have additionally received booster shots, the survey finds. The CNN poll is one of several recent surveys to find Americans getting boosted at a higher rate than suggested by data from the CDC. As the agency itself recently acknowledged, its numbers likely overestimate the number of Americans who've gotten first doses while underestimating the share who've received boosters, largely because records of additional doses are not always correctly linked.
Those who have been vaccinated and not yet boosted seem less than eager to get an additional boost. About a third of adults say they haven't even tried to schedule booster shots, while 6% report having appointments to get them and another 4% have tried but have been unable to schedule them.
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