The number of Americans who know they have ever had COVID-19 has increased sharply in the past month

January 13, 2022, 3:19 PM UTC

The latest Economist/YouGov Poll documents the substantial increase in the share of Americans who say they have tested positive for COVID-19 since a month ago, as the Omicron variant spreads quickly through the U.S. While 16% of adults say they have personally tested positive for COVID-19 during the pandemic (about one in every six American adults), nearly one-third of those who have tested positive — 30% — have done so in the last month. (That could include some people who have tested positive more than once during the pandemic.)

Republicans are more likely than Democrats to have received a positive test result, by 22% to 15%. Vaccination status makes a difference, as people who are fully vaccinated are less likely to have received a positive test at any time in the pandemic, including before they were vaccinated, than people who are unvaccinated (12% compared to 21%).

Throughout the first year of the pandemic, the share of American adults reporting positive tests in the Economist/YouGov Poll never rose above 5%. Less than six months ago, in the summer of 2021, just 10% of Americans reported having tested positive for COVID. One month ago, 12% reported a positive test. Now, 16% say they have tested positive. 

The recent spike in cases is broader in its reach. More than one-third of the fully vaccinated who have tested positive have done so in the last month. 

The share of Americans who have been tested for COVID-19 is high. Nearly half (48%) have sought out tests conducted by a health-care worker outside the home. About one in five of those who have sought that kind of test (9% overall) say they have had trouble getting tested, with the highest percentage (13%) in the Northeast. For half of those getting tests outside the home, their wait was less than 15 minutes. But for one in eight who sought out a test, the wait was an hour or more. More than one in four of those tested outside the home tested positive. 

One in five Americans have acquired an at-home test, including 28% of Democrats and 19% of Republicans. Nearly half of those who have acquired an at-home test say they experienced problems acquiring it. One in four of those who have used an at-home test say they tested positive when using the test – but in only about half of those cases did they report the positive result to a government agency, a concern for accurate case counting.

There may be even more demand for at-home tests: Twice as many Americans say they would request a rapid at-home test if it could be mailed to them at no cost, a possibility raised by the Biden administration. Republicans, who have been less likely than Democrats to have acquired an at-home COVID test, say they also would be less likely to request a free test from a government website. Americans who are fully vaccinated — at least one shot of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine or at least two of Pfizer’s or Moderna’s — are roughly twice as likely as those who have gotten no vaccine doses to say they’d request at-home tests.

See the toplines and crosstabs from this Economist/YouGov Poll

Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 U.S. adult citizens interviewed online between January 8 and January 11, 2022. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the 2018 American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, as well as 2016 and 2020 Presidential votes (or non-votes). Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. citizens. The margin of error is approximately 3% for the overall sample. 

Image: Getty