Dec 7, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Axios-Ipsos poll: Shrugging off Omicron

Americans' response to the Omicron variant
Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Note: The last question only includes 589 employed respondents; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Most Americans aren't willing to make big changes in their behavior to minimize the risk from the Omicron variant, like avoiding indoor restaurant dining or cancelling their holiday travel plans, according to a new Axios-Ipsos poll.

The big picture: The poll found support for some broader public responses, including one — travel bans aimed at people from other countries — that was widely supported by people across the political spectrum. But it found that Americans are only willing to do so much on their own.

  • The poll shows "how much the behavior is already baked in" at this late stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, with Americans mainly interested in ways to adapt so they can keep living their lives, Ipsos senior vice president Chris Jackson said.
  • "New facts don't seem to be changing people. They've already decided what they're going to do, and they're doing it."

By the numbers: Only about a third of Americans say they're likely to stop dining indoors at restaurants in response to the new variant, and fewer than one-in-four say they're likely to cancel holiday travel plans.

  • Likewise, only a little more than one in four say they'll skip gatherings with friends and families outside of their households.
  • A majority of Americans are willing to wear masks indoors in public at all times in response to Omicron. But naturally, that hides huge partisan differences: 82% of Democrats are willing to do so, but just 38% of Republicans are.

Between the lines: The poll found that while most Americans have heard of the Omicron variant, many don't know a lot about it yet.

  • Just 47% said they were very or somewhat familiar with the new variant, while another 47% said they've heard of it but know almost nothing about it.

What to watch: Larger numbers of Americans are open to broad public responses to Omicron, like businesses requiring customers to wear masks indoors (69%), travel bans to keep people from other countries from entering the U.S. (67%), and local governments requiring masks in all indoor public places (65%).

  • Some of those responses have massive partisan differences too, like private business mask mandates (94% of Democrats support them to respond to Omicron, vs. just 43% of Republicans) and local government mask mandates (93% of Democrats vs. 34% of Republicans).
  • But there are no big partisan differences on travel bans for people from other countries: 72% of Democrats and 66% of Republicans support that. (There's less support for travel bans to keep U.S. citizens from coming home: 45% overall, including 54% of Democrats and 36% of Republicans.)
  • And about two thirds of Americans (67%) say they'd support airlines requiring proof of COVID vaccination to let passengers fly — something U.S. airlines aren't doing.
  • One thing Americans will not support: another round of lockdowns. Just 35% said they'd support temporary lockdowns and business closures to fight Omicron.

Methodology: This poll was conducted Dec. 3–6 by Ipsos' KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,021 general population adults age 18 or older.

  • The margin of sampling error is ± 3.4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample of adults.
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