Mar 9, 2021 - Health

Axios-Ipsos poll: America looks for the exits after a year of COVID

Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios
Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

A year after the coronavirus abruptly shut down much of the country, Americans are watching for a clear signal of when the pandemic will be over — and most won't be ready to ditch the masks and social distancing until they get it, according to the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

The big picture: The poll found that more Americans are expecting the outbreak to be over sooner rather than later, as vaccinations ramp up throughout the country — but that very few are ready to end the precautions that have upended their lives.

Driving the news: Saturday will be the anniversary of then-President Donald Trump declaring a national emergency over COVID.

  • In that time, Americans have gone from racing into lockdown to slowly re-emerging, and from wearing masks sparingly to wearing them all the time.
  • And the vast majority now know someone who has gotten the virus — and one in three knows someone who has died from it.
  • Our polls over the last year, produced in a partnership between Axios and global research firm Ipsos, show how Americans adjusted to the grim new reality — and how cautious most will be in declaring it over.

By the numbers: Just 7% of respondents said they plan to stop wearing face masks in public after they've been vaccinated, and only 13% said they plan to stop social distancing.

  • By contrast, 81% said they'll keep wearing face masks, and 66% said they'll keep social distancing, until the pandemic ends — even after they've gotten the shot.
  • 87% said they'll keep frequently washing or sanitizing their hands until the pandemic ends.

Between the lines: More Americans are expecting to return to something like their normal, pre-COVID lives in the near future. This week, 21% said they expect to do so within the next six months — up from just 15% who thought a six-month timeline seemed realistic at the beginning of February.

  • 25% of the respondents in this week's poll reported that they had gotten the vaccine, the highest share since this poll started tracking that question.
  • 36% said they expect to return to normal within the next year, roughly the same as the number who felt that way a month ago.

Yes, but: Other responses suggest people are divided on what the "all clear" signal is.

  • "People remember the start, but there's no clarity on the finish. Right now there's just murkiness," said Cliff Young, president of Ipsos U.S. Public Affairs.
  • When asked when they would start seeing friends and family outside of their household again, 9% said they would when they're vaccinated and 20% said they would do so when everyone in their immediate circle is vaccinated.
  • But 10% said they'd wait until local officials say it's safe, 11% said they'd wait until national officials say it's safe, and 20% said they didn't know. (30% said they already have.)

Flashback: The headlines from our polls over the last year capture the major events Americans have experienced, from the initial shock to the ways we've adapted:

The other side: As miserable as the past year has been, people have been able to find some personal benefits from the changes in our lives.

  • 36% say they've benefitted from spending more time at home, while 24% cited spending more time at home with family and 21% cited the slower pace of their lives.
  • And 33% said they've benefitted from spending less money, or saving more of it.

Methodology: This Axios/Ipsos Poll was conducted March 5-8 by Ipsos' KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,001 general population adults age 18 or older.

  • The margin of sampling error is ±3.2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample of adults.
Go deeper