Pessimism Regarding the Future of the Pandemic Rises Amongst the American Public

August 12, 2021
R&WS Research Team
Coronavirus | Health | US Politics | USA
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As the Delta coronavirus variant spreads across America and coronavirus restrictions are reinforced, the latest research from Redfield & Wilton Strategies finds that public opinion has drastically changed. Compared to previous polls in May and March 2021, pessimism has become the plurality opinion amongst the American public, and Americans appear divided concerning the current measures taken by the US Government.

A plurality of 44% of the American public think that the worst is yet to come regarding the coronavirus timeline. A further 29% think that the worst is behind us, but a similar proportion of 27% don’t know. This latest result represents a significant 20% increase since a previous Redfield & Wilton poll in May 2021 found that just 24% thought the worst was yet to come, and a corresponding 21% decrease in the proportion that think the worst is behind us, down from 50%. Since an earlier poll in March 2021, the proportion who respond that ‘the worst is yet to come’ has risen 24%, from 20% to 44%.

We observe a slight gender disparity in responses: men are more likely to say that the worst is behind us, at 35% compared to just 23% of women. Conversely, women are more likely to think that the worst is yet to come, with almost half (47%) of women expressing this opinion compared to 41% of men.

The opinion that the worst is yet to come generally increases with age, but dips in the over 65 age bracket. Half (50%) of those aged 55 to 64 think that the worst of the coronavirus crisis is yet to come, compared to 40% of 18-to-24-year-olds. Of those aged 65 and over, 42% share this opinion.

There is general agreement amongst those who voted for Donald Trump and those who voted for Joe Biden in 2020 regarding the timeline of the coronavirus crisis. Almost half (47%) of those who voted for Trump think that the worst is yet to come, as do 42% of those who voted for Biden. In May, both groups had a different take. Then, 52% of Trump voters and 54% of Biden voters selected ‘the worst is behind us.’

Regarding the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the American public are similarly pessimistic. A plurality of 46% think that the worst of the economic effects is yet to come, compared to 27% who think the worst is behind us, and 28% who don’t know. Since May 2021 there has been a ten-point increase in the opinion that the worst is yet to come, and a thirteen-point decrease in the view that the worst is behind us.

Again, men are more likely to express the view that the worst economic effects are behind us, with 32% of men compared to just 22% of women sharing this view. Similarly, women are more likely to think the worst is yet to come at 48% compared to 43% of men. 

We observe similar age trends in response to this question as the previous question regarding the timeline of the coronavirus crisis. Those aged 55 to 64 are the most likely to say that the worst economic effects are yet to come, with a majority of 53% expressing this view. Yet those aged 65 and above are the least likely to share this view, with 39% in agreement. In comparison, 45% of 18-to-24-year-olds agree that the worst is yet to come regarding the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. 

There are starker differences according to 2020 Presidential vote regarding the economic effects of the pandemic. A majority (54%) of those who voted for Donald Trump think the worst is yet to come, while 40% of those who voted for Joe Biden share this view. In comparison, a third (33%) of Biden voters think that the worst is behind us, while only 24% of Trump voters think the same.

Following general pessimism regarding the coronavirus pandemic, a plurality of 40% disagree that the coronavirus crisis will likely be over in a year’s time. A further 30% agree that it will be over in a year’s time, and 23% neither agree nor disagree. In March 2021, however, 46% agreed that the coronavirus crisis would likely be over in a year’s time, while 21% disagreed.

Age is a clear indicator of opinion, with 48% of those aged 65 and above and 50% of those aged 55 to 64 disagreeing that it is likely the coronavirus crisis will be over in a year’s time, compared to just 17% of 18-to-24-year-olds. Conversely, 41% of 18-to-24-year-olds agree that the crisis will likely be over in a year’s time, an opinion shared by just 18% of those aged 65 and over.

Here we see almost exact consensus between 2020 Trump and Biden voters: 40% of Trump voters and 41% of Biden voters disagree that the crisis will be over in a year’s time, whereas 32% of both groups agree. In May, there was similar concurrence between the two groups, when 47% of Biden voters and 45% of Trump voters agreed with this same statement.

Finally, the American public are fiercely split on whether the US Government are taking the right measures to address the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 42% think that the US Government are not taking the right measures, whereas 41% think they are. A further 18% don’t know. This disagreement marks a drastic change in opinion since our previous polls in May and March of 2021, where majorities of 56% and 61%, respectively, thought that the Government were taking the right measures to address the pandemic compared to 28% and 26% who thought they were not.

This division in opinion appears to be driven by age and 2020 Presidential election vote. Those aged 18 to 24 are least likely to say the US Government are currently taking the right measures to address the pandemic, with just 27% expressing this view compared to 48% of those aged 65 and over. Conversely, a majority of 52% of 18-to-24-year-olds think that the Government is not taking the right measures, an opinion shared by 38% of those aged 65 and above.

A majority of 62% of those who voted for Trump in 2020 think that the US Government is currently not taking the right measures to address the pandemic, whereas 65% of those who voted for Biden think that they are. Overall, we observe a marked increase in pessimism regarding the coronavirus crisis amongst the US public. There have been significant changes in public opinion regarding both the timeline and economic effects of the pandemic, with a plurality of the American public thinking that the worst is yet to come for the first time since December 2020. Similarly, the timeline of the pandemic is expected to continue for the next year, with a plurality thinking it is unlikely that the crisis will be over in a year’s time. However, the US public are divided regarding the current measures taken by the US Government to address the coronavirus crisis, with equal proportions thinking that these are and are not the right measures.

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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