The United States has suffered more deaths from coronavirus than any nation in the world, with over 500,000 individuals having lost their lives as a result of the pandemic. However, the tide now seems to be turning in the US, where over 80 million people have now received a coronavirus vaccine, causing a surge in optimism among Americans. Indeed, the latest poll from Redfield & Wilton Strategies shows that 58% of Americans agree that the coronavirus situation in the United States is coming under control.  

This result is the first time a majority of respondents have thought the coronavirus situation in the US is coming under control since we began asking this question in June 2020. In fact, it is the largest proportion to believe the situation is coming under control since 38% of respondents held this view in September 2020, when COVID-19 cases were relatively low in the US. By comparison, just 31% of respondents thought the coronavirus situation was coming under control in the US in December 2020. This large increase in respondents believing the pandemic is coming under control is likely attributable to the fast pace of the American vaccine rollout that began in mid-December.

Similarly, there has also been an increase in the proportion of Americans who feel the worst of the pandemic is over: in December 2020, a plurality (48%) of respondents thought the worst was yet to come with respect to the timeline of the pandemic in the US, whereas in our latest poll, 56% of respondents believe the worst is behind us. Again, this is the first time that a majority or plurality have said the worst is behind us since we first asked this question in June 2020.

A smaller proportion of Americans believe the worst is over in terms of the economic effects of the pandemic in particular, though it is still the plurality position: 44% of respondents think the worst is behind us with respect to the pandemic’s economic effects, compared to 30% who think the worst is yet to come. This latest figure represents another significant change since December 2020, when 48% of respondents thought the worst was yet to come and 25% thought the worst was behind us.

Interestingly, half (50%) of respondents who voted for Joe Biden in the 2020 Presidential Election think the worst is behind us with respect to the pandemic’s economic repercussions, compared to 39% of 2020 Donald Trump voters.

Overall, almost half (48%) of Americans are optimistic that the US can recover quickly from the pandemic, including a plurality of 2020 Trump voters (42%) and a majority of 2020 Biden voters (57%). Only a fifth (21%) of respondents said they are pessimistic that the US can recover quickly.

Likewise, 46% of respondents agree that the coronavirus crisis will likely be over in a year’s time, whereas 21% disagree and 26% neither agree nor disagree.

Optimism that the pandemic will likely be over in a year’s time is highest among 25-to-34-year-olds, 55% of whom agree the crisis is likely to be over in a year. Alternatively, a quarter of both 55-to-64-year-olds (25%) and 65-and-overs (24%) disagree that the pandemic will likely be over in a year’s time, though pluralities of both groups think otherwise.

On a personal level, a plurality of respondents expect both their financial situation (49%) and their wellbeing and happiness (40%) to stay the same in the next 3 months. A considerable proportion of Americans expect improvements in their wellbeing and happiness (32%) and in their financial situation (23%). Meanwhile, less than a fifth of respondents expect their financial situation (17%) and well-being and happiness (13%) to worsen in the next three months, suggesting that Americans are fairly optimistic—or at least, not pessimistic—about their personal situations as well.

Americans are also feeling much safer now personally with respect to the pandemic than they were in December 2020. In our latest poll, 52% of respondents said they are not actively scared of contracting coronavirus and do not consider it a genuine possibility that they may get the virus when they go outside. Conversely, 38% of respondents said they are actively scared and do consider it a genuine possibility, a substantial decrease from 49% in December 2020.

Interestingly, in our latest poll, the proportion of respondents who said they are actively scared of contracting the virus and consider it a genuine possibility when they go outside is still considerable among those who have been vaccinated (39%), and in fact, is similar to those who have not been vaccinated (38%).

The proportion of respondents who said they feel less scared of contracting coronavirus than they did in March and April 2020 has also increased significantly since December 2020, when 19% said they felt less scared and 34% said they felt more scared. In our latest poll, 47% of respondents said they feel less scared of contracting coronavirus than they did in last March and April, 45% said they feel equally scared, and just 8% said they feel more scared. 

For this question, respondents who have received a vaccine (58%) are much more likely than those who have not received a vaccine (38%) to say they feel less scared of contracting coronavirus than they felt in March and April 2020. This finding reveals why a majority (59%) of respondents aged 65 and over, many of whom have been vaccinated, say they now feel less scared of contracting the virus.

Also as a result of progress on vaccinations, along with decreasing coronavirus cases in the United States, majorities of Americans said they would feel safe shopping at the supermarket (75%), shopping for clothes and such items (62%), eating at a restaurant or drinking at a bar outside (61%), going to a barber or hair salon (58%), and visiting a friend’s house (58%).

Conversely, majorities of respondents said they would feel unsafe traveling to another country (75%), watching a movie at a theatre (63%), attending a sporting event (63%), going to the gym (61%), and taking public transportation (60%).

In most areas, 35-to-44-year-olds are the least likely to say they would feel safe: for instance, 54% of 35-to-44-year-olds said they would feel safe shopping at the supermarket, in contrast to 81% of 18-to-24-year-olds and 83% of 65-and-overs. This is possibly because 35-to-44-year-olds are less likely than the older age groups to have received a vaccine, while also being at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill from coronavirus compared to the younger age groups.

Americans are split on whether they would feel safe (46%) or unsafe (46%) eating at a restaurant or drinking at a bar inside. That being said, our latest poll saw the highest proportion of respondents say they would feel safe eating at a restaurant or drinking at a bar both outside and inside since we began asking these questions in August 2020. 

Our latest poll also saw the highest proportion of respondents say they would feel safe going to the barber or hair salon and going to the hospital for something unrelated to coronavirus since we first asked these questions in June 2020, including a fourteen-point increase in both since December 2020.

Americans on the whole appear to be optimistic about the direction in which the US is headed with respect to the coronavirus pandemic: majorities currently feel the situation is coming under control and do not actively fear contracting the virus when they go outside. In fact, most Americans would currently feel safe going to many places that have been restricted in some locations during the pandemic, including shopping for clothes and such items, going to a barber or hair salon, and visiting a friend’s house. While many Americans would still feel unsafe doing a host of activities, some appear to be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, as almost half of respondents feel optimistic that the US can recover quickly from the pandemic and that it will likely be over in a year’s time.

To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

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