Jul 19, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Axios-Ipsos poll: We'll never be rid of COVID

What is your top concern related to COVID-19 right now?
Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Chart: Simran Parwani/Axios

Nearly eight in 10 Americans think we won't be rid of COVID-19 in our lifetimes, according to the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Why it matters: The poll is new evidence that most Americans have moved past the pandemic and are likelier to be focused on inflation and making ends meet than what variant is spreading or what COVID treatments are available.

  • The poll findings also suggest that the reach of the pandemic may be wider than previously thought.
  • 46% think they've had, or suspected they had, COVID at some point during the pandemic — a far larger percentage than Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates based on the presence of antibodies in the blood.

By the numbers: 78% of respondents strongly or somewhat agreed with the statement, "We will never fully be rid of the coronavirus in my lifetime."

  • Asked about their top concern about COVID, 27% said they're worried about spreading the virus to those at higher risk of serious illness, while 13% said their biggest concern is dying after being infected.
  • 45% believe cases are increasing, while 16% said they're decreasing. And awareness of trends in hospitalizations and deaths was even more mixed.
  • Just 26% said they were very or somewhat aware of the antiviral pill Paxlovid.

The big picture: The relatively small percentage of Americans who still feel a personal sense of risk poses big challenges for public health officials planning fall booster campaigns or expanded access to shots before then.

  • "A special Omicron flavor of the vaccine isn’t going to encourage them to get the shot," said Ipsos pollster and senior vice president Chris Jackson.

Between the lines: The findings show a deepening bifurcation in which a small percentage of Americans remain acutely aware of the course of the pandemic and take steps like masking most of the time.

  • Though far more people aren't paying close attention to the pandemic and are eager to get on with their lives, they're still focused on the broader risk to society and the danger of infecting vulnerable populations.
  • 33% of respondents said they'd be very likely to get a fourth COVID-19 booster shot if it was available.
  • 54% said most other Americans are behaving in a way that's making the nation's recovery from the pandemic worse.
  • Jackson said the lack of awareness may be a reflection of people not hearing clear messaging from the CDC or President Biden.

The intrigue: While the majority of Americans may not be focused on the course of the pandemic, there's been a small uptick in support since the last survey for measures, like businesses requiring customers to show proof of vaccination and workplace vaccine and masking mandates.

  • But other metrics to assess personal risk have barely budged: 62% of respondents said they've gone out to eat in the past week, and 67% said they visited friends or relatives.
  • Only 20% said they canceled or skipped attending large gatherings, down from 47% when the question was asked in late February.

The bottom line: Cliff Young, president of Ipsos U.S. Public Affairs, said the economy and inflation remain paramount in most Americans' minds.

  • "People are focused on making ends meet. The virus has become a part of day-to-day life, it’s just a given," he said.

Methodology: This Axios/Ipsos Poll was conducted July 15-18 by Ipsos' KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,155 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.
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