Nov 23, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Axios-Ipsos poll: Thanksgiving roulette

Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Two-in-three Americans will celebrate this Thanksgiving with friends or family outside their immediate households, and about half of those say their gatherings could include unvaccinated people, according to the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Why it matters: Vaccinations and booster shots are giving more people confidence to resume traditions like sitting around a packed table with masks off. But many are doing so with heightened awareness of what they don't know when it comes to their holiday companions.

  • This year, 31% see a large or moderate risk in seeing friends or family for Thanksgiving — way down from 64% a year ago.
  • People's assessment of overall risk of returning to their normal pre-COVID lives is also down, with 44% seeing it as a large to moderate risk this year compared with 72% last year.
  • But when Americans are asked how concerned they still feel about the virus, the numbers haven't diminished all that much: 69% compared with 85% a year ago.

What they're saying: "We're just in a holding pattern," said Cliff Young, president of Ipsos U.S. Public Affairs.

  • "They're going to Thanksgiving because they have to, they have to see their family and friends, it's human nature," Young said. "But Americans are still deploying mitigating strategies."
  • Ipsos pollster and senior vice president Chris Jackson said the vaccines "have attenuated some of that risk. But there's a larger sense of anxiety or concern that hasn't been dealt with."

By the numbers: 67% of U.S. adults surveyed said they'll see friends or family outside their households. That's 73% of Republicans, 70% of independents and 63% of Democrats.

  • 30% of them said the guests will include unvaccinated people, and another 17% said they don't know whether other guests will be vaccinated or not.
  • 38% said they'll be with people who don't regularly wear masks outside the home, while another 21% said they didn't know if their guests regularly wear masks.
  • 4% said they'll be seeing people who've been exposed to COVID-19 in the last two weeks; another 28% aren't sure if people at their gatherings have been exposed.

Between the lines: There's a modest partisan gap around openness to returning to the communal Thanksgiving table — but a gulf around who you're willing to sit with.

  • 41% of Republicans expect to spend the holiday with someone who's unvaccinated, compared with 17% of Democrats.
  • When we asked unvaccinated respondents, 56% of those who will celebrate Thanksgiving with friends and family outside the home expect the guests to include other unvaccinated people.

The big picture: This week's findings show overwhelming support (86%) for every vaccinated American who wants a booster being able to get one. But only about one in four respondents said they knew much about an anti-viral COVID-19 pill awaiting FDA approval.

  • 23% hadn't heard about the pill at all, and half had heard of it but said they didn't know much about it.
  • When the unvaccinated were asked whether they'd rather get a shot to prevent the virus, or wait to catch the virus and then take an approved pill to treat it, the pill drew a slight edge (17% versus 12%) and 15% had no preference, while a majority — 53% — said they'd prefer to take neither.
  • That suggests the pill won't be a silver bullet — and offers more evidence that there is a segment of American society that doesn't trust science or government to tell them what to do.

Methodology: This Axios/Ipsos Poll was conducted Nov. 19-22 by Ipsos' KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,023 general population adults age 18 or older.

  • The margin of sampling error is ±3.3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample of adults.
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