Jul 28, 2020 - Health

Axios-Ipsos poll: The rise of coronavirus social bubbles

Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Note: 1,076 U.S. adults were surveyed with ±3.1% margin of error; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios
Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Note: 1,076 U.S. adults were surveyed with ±3.1% margin of error; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Nearly half of Americans say they've established social "bubbles" of people they can trust to follow the rules for minimizing the risk of spreading the coronavirus, according to the latest installment of the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Between the lines: The trend isn't particularly partisan. It is most common in the suburbs and among women, older adults and people with college educations.

Why it matters: This week's poll findings suggest that Americans are grappling with the reality that the virus isn't going away anytime soon — and they're trying to find ways to maintain some social contact without putting themselves at risk.

  • This is happening as 46% of Americans say they know someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus. To put that in perspective, only 4% of Americans knew someone who had tested positive when this survey began in mid-March.
  • And 18% say they know someone who has died from it — the highest share since Ipsos began asking the question in late April.

By the numbers: 47% of Americans said they've established social bubbles, including:

  • 51% of women.
  • 50% of suburban residents.
  • 54% of Americans age 65 and older.
  • 51% of Americans with a bachelor's degree or higher.

Between the lines: This is one of the rare movements that doesn't appear to be hopelessly split among party lines: 50% of Democrats and 49% of Republicans say they've established bubbles, as have 42% of independents.

  • 49% of Black Americans, 47% of white Americans, and 41% of Hispanics had established bubbles.

"It’s an indicator of how we’ve adjusted our lives," said Cliff Young, president of Ipsos U.S. Public Affairs. "It’s reinforcing our networks, it’s reinforcing those who are proximate to us."

  • "This is one way people feel like they have some control. They’re trying to have a normal life with people they can trust."

The poll also found evidence that Americans are worried enough about the coronavirus that even the prospect of a vaccine won't be enough to ease their concerns.

  • More than one out of four Americans (26%) said they would consider it a large risk to take the first generation of a coronavirus vaccine as soon as it's available.
  • By contrast, 35% said the first vaccine would be a moderate risk, while 29% said it would be a small risk.

Yes, but: It's too early to read anything into these results about how people will react when a real vaccine is available. People who consider it risky may well take it anyway.

  • And they can't give informed answers when there's not likely to be an approved vaccine until early next year at the earliest.
  • What the results are more likely telling us is that Americans are skeptical, given their fears about the virus, and are unlikely to be persuaded by anyone who says a vaccine is about to bring this nightmare to an end — whether it's President Trump or anyone else.
  • "Until there’s a concrete solution to the virus like a vaccine that’s shown to work, people are going to be disbelieving of any solutions that sound more elixir-like than concrete," Young said. "We’re at the stage now where people are expecting real solutions."

1 self-righteous thing: More than nine out of 10 respondents (94%) said they and their family are making the recovery from the pandemic better — while 75% said other Americans are making the recovery worse.

Methodology: This Axios/Ipsos Poll was conducted July 24-27 by Ipsos' KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,076 general population adults age 18 or older.

  • The margin of sampling error is ±3.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample of adults.
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