A majority of Americans now believe the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us

May 21, 2021, 2:50 PM UTC

There is an increasing sense among Americans that things are getting better, and that there may be light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, according to the latest Economist/YouGov poll.

This week, 58% believe the worst of the pandemic is behind us, a jump of ten points in the last week (48%), and the highest figure since the question was first asked a year ago. Since the beginning of the year, as vaccinations began, Americans became more optimistic. Although Republicans remain more optimistic than Democrats — 64% of Republicans say the worst is behind us — Democratic optimism has jumped 14 points in the last week from 45% to 59%.

When will the world return to normal?  

Half of Americans (52%) expect that it will be safe to resume normal life activities by September, though only 37% think it will occur by July. Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to see the country returning to normal by the fall – in fact, half of Republicans (49%) believe things have returned to normal now. 

Optimism that things will get back to normal in the U.S. doesn’t lead to optimism that things will improve globally. Just one in four (24%) expect the world will be able to return to normal by September. 

There are fewer party differences when it comes to expectations for the world. One in three Americans (33%) aren’t sure when the world can be normal again, and Democrats (41%) are more likely than Republicans (26%) to think it will take until 2022 or later.

Despite the idea of normalcy being within reach, there is little change in willingness to be vaccinated. More than half the country say they have had at least one dose, a group that includes about three in four Democrats and a majority of Independents, but just 49% of Republicans. But overall, one in three say they will not be vaccinated or aren’t sure what they will do. 

President Joe Biden’s goal for getting 70% of Americans vaccinated. Only 48% say it is likely the President’s vaccination goal will be reached. On this, Democrats (64% think it is likely) are more optimistic than Republicans (41%). 

COVID-19
 

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

Related: Two-thirds of Americans approve of sending COVID-19 vaccines overseas 

Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 US Adult Citizens interviewed online between May 15 - 18, 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 2.7% for the overall sample. 

Image: Getty