One year and 500,000 deaths later: Democrats remain the most worried about COVID-19

Linley SandersData Journalist
February 22, 2021, 4:00 PM UTC

It’s been more than one year since The Economist/YouGov poll began covering America’s view of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the weekly dataset, YouGov has tracked Americans’ own fear about contracting the virus that has led to nearly 500,000 recorded deaths.

Three in five Americans (60%) are now concerned about personally contracting coronavirus — a concern that has plagued a majority of the population since March 2020.

When YouGov began asking this question in February 2020, just 39% of Americans were very or somewhat worried about personally experiencing COVID-19. By early March of last year, that concern jumped to half of the population (49%). By the end of that month, the level of concern hit 64%, and it has remained at about that level ever since. 

Throughout the pandemic, Democrats have remained more concerned than the rest of the country about getting sick with the virus. On February 1, 2020, just two in five Democrats (44%) were worried about the illness. That quickly jumped to 62% on February 29, 2020 as Democrat-led states like California and New York struggled to contain their outbreaks. As the pandemic spread in April, four in five Democrats (81%) became concerned about the risks of COVID-19. To date, that fear continues to haunt Democrats. This week, four in five (79%) are concerned about the prospect of getting sick.

Republicans have been continually less concerned about the seriousness of the illness. On February 1, 2020, just three in 10 Republicans (31%) were worried about catching the coronavirus. Even as Democratic fear grew in late February, Republicans did not see the virus as a concern. On February 29, 2020, just one-third of Republicans (33%) were worried — half the number of Democrats who were concerned at the time.  

Republicans’ spike of concern came later than Democrats: on March 26, a majority (56%) of Republicans became worried about personally contracting coronavirus. That worry has since subsided for many, though. This week, just 42% are concerned about it.  

Related: A different vaccine anxiety: wondering when a wanted injection will come  

See the toplines and crosstabs from this week’s Economist/YouGov Poll  

Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 US Adult Citizens interviewed online between January 31 - February 2, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the US Bureau of the Census, as well as 2016 Presidential vote, registration status, geographic region, and news interest. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all US citizens. The margin of error is approximately 2.9% for the overall sample.  

Image: Getty