Jan 11, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Axios-Ipsos poll: America retrenches on COVID

When did you have COVID-19?
Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Social distancing and self-quarantining have spiked in recent weeks as Omicron puts the nation in a crouch like last spring before vaccines became widely available, according to the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

The big picture: 36% of vaccinated survey respondents who have tested positive for the virus or think they've had it now say they were infected after being fully vaccinated. That compares with 22% in mid-December, and just 6% last summer.

  • Nearly nine-in-10 now say they know someone who's gotten COVID.

Between the lines: We all know or have heard stories about people saying they'd like to just get it over with and get Omicron because it sounds milder than earlier strains.

  • But the survey results suggest most Americans are worried about Omicron and modifying their behavior to try to minimize exposure and spread.
  • They also suggest a possible reason for that fear: vaccines aren't as effective in stopping infections as they used to be before Omicron. (Health officials emphasize that they do significantly decrease the risk of hospitalization and death.)

What they're saying: "It's 'America retrenches,'" said Cliff Young, president of Ipsos U.S. Public Affairs. "People all of a sudden are being assaulted again by the virus and therefore they're changing. And if they're not, somebody very close to them is."

  • "The shifts are so significant across the board," said Ipsos vice president Mallory Newall. They represent "a revert back to basically last April when people were bunkering because a majority weren't vaccinated yet."

A combined 52% of all respondents now say they believe it will be more than a year — or never — before they can return to their normal, pre-COVID lives. That's the highest since we began asking this question nearly a year ago.

  • About three-fourths said they feel they face as great a risk or more risk of contracting the virus now than in the spring of 2020.
  • The share of unvaccinated Americans saying Omicron makes them more likely to get vaccinated declined slightly but not significantly since December.

By the numbers: Three-fourths of respondents in the latest wave of our national survey say they've received the vaccine. But there's broad public awareness that even being fully vaccinated and boosted isn't stopping breakthroughs of this strain.

  • 57% said they socially distanced in the last week, up from 45% last month and the highest level since last April.
  • 13% said they self-quarantined, up from 8% last month and the highest since last April.
  • 46% went out to eat, down from 54% last month and the lowest since last April.
  • 50% visited family and friends, down from 60% last month and the lowest since last March.
  • More people also reported working from home and being required to wear masks in the workplace.

The share of Americans saying they took a COVID test in the past week was up from December, but not dramatically: 17% compared with 13%.

  • 14% said they've tried to get an at-home test in the past few weeks but couldn't find one.
  • 10% said they tried to get a professional to give them a test but couldn't get an appointment.

One big question: Is politics a lagging indicator? Young says yes, and if he's right it spells more bad news for President Biden and fellow Democrats as the numbers catch up.

  • Overall trust in the CDC (49%), federal government (62%) and Biden (45%) haven't dropped significantly since Omicron's rise.
  • But that data is showing a softening in trust over the past month, as some who once declared a "great" deal of trust have shifted to a "fair" amount of trust.

What we're watching: 57% of respondents oppose the government paying unemployment benefits to people who lose their jobs for not complying with vaccine requirements.

Methodology: This Axios/Ipsos Poll was conducted Jan. 7-10 by Ipsos' KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,054 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.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the description of the share of unvaccinated Americans saying Omicron makes them more likely to get the vaccine. The original data inadvertently swapped figures for unvaccinated and vaccinated-but-unboosted respondents.

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