Most Americans say that COVID-19 cases are decreasing nationally and in their local areas, in a sharp reversal from January when positive rates (and perceptions of high caseloads) jumped during the spread of the Omicron variant. The latest Economist/YouGov poll shows American optimism that COVID-19 risks are fading, but comparatively few say “we have won the war” against the virus or believe it’s safe to resume normal activities.
With all U.S. states, and many territories, eliminating mask mandates this month, more than three-quarters of Americans (78%) say they are ready to “return to normal.” That is further reinforced by the 62% of Americans who say the national caseload is decreasing rather than going up (12%).
But Americans’ hopes for returning to normal do not mean that they believe it is safe to do so yet. Only one in three (34%) say it is safe to resume normal life activities. The same number (34%) believe that it will be safe sometime in 2022, while 20% say it will not be safe until after 2022. Even fewer (13%) now say it will never be safe to return to normal. Other than a slight shift toward believing things will be safe later this year rather than after this year, these figures are little changed from when they were first asked in February 2022.
Americans are also mostly unwilling to declare victory over a virus that has killed more than 900,000 Americans. About half of Americans (47%) say no to the question, “Have we won the war against COVID-19?”. About half as many (23%) say yes. Republicans are split on whether the war against COVID-19 has been won (35%) or not (38%). Most Democrats (54%) say we have not won, compared to 19% who say we have. Some of the majority of people who aren’t saying we’ve won the war on COVID-19 might not think the war is winnable, or that it is a war at all.
Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 U.S. adult citizens interviewed online between March 5 - 8, 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.