Americans’ Optimism About Covid Plunges, Poll Finds—But They’re Still Getting Back To Normal Anyway


Americans’ outlook of the Covid-19 pandemic has become increasingly pessimistic in recent months, a new Gallup poll found, with a growing share believing things are getting worse instead of better—but despite thinking they’re now more at risk for catching the virus, Americans are taking fewer precautions and more are getting back to their normal lives.

Key Facts

The poll, conducted July 26-August 2, found 41% of U.S. adults believe the coronavirus situation in the U.S. is “getting better,” down from 63% in April.

The share of those who believe it’s getting worse has gone up from 15% to 30%, while the percentage of those saying it’s “staying about the same” has gone from 21% to 29%.

Most Americans believe national Covid-19 cases will rise later this year in the fall and winter—23% think they’ll increase a “great deal” and 43% by a “moderate amount”—and only 8% expect they’ll go down.

Only 26% said they’re “very confident” they can protect themselves against Covid-19 when out in public, down from 36% in April and the lowest share recorded since August 2021—though only 35% said they’re actually worried about contracting it.

While most Americans (55%) said their lives are only “somewhat” back to normal compared with pre-pandemic and 56% still report their lives being disrupted by Covid-19, the share of those saying their lives are “completely” back to how they were went up from 21% in April to 24% now.

Gallup notes the percentages of respondents who report taking social distancing precautions are now at or near all-time lows: only 47% have worn a mask in public in the past week, 19% are at least mostly isolating from people outside their households and less than a third are avoiding things like public places (22% avoiding), public transportation (25%) and large crowds (32%).

Big Number

33%. That’s the share of respondents who said the Covid-19 pandemic is over, while a 67% majority believe it’s not. That’s largely unchanged from 34% who said the same in April, which marked an all-time high since the pandemic began.

What To Watch For

If more new coronavirus variants will emerge and take hold, which 53% of respondents believe will happen. That’s down from as many as 68% who said the same last year, though. Only 46% of respondents were at least moderately confident that existing Covid-19 vaccines can protect against new variants of the coronavirus, down from 71% last year. While evidence has shown the vaccines don’t provide as strong protection against infection from new variants like BA.5, they do remain effective at preventing severe illness and death.

Key Background

The U.S. is still recording more than 100,000 daily Covid-19 cases on average, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as the highly transmissible BA.5 variant, which can infect even people with prior immunity from other strains, has become dominant in the U.S. Cases have been somewhat decreasing—the U.S. was recording nearly 130,000 daily cases in mid- to late July—though official case counts are likely significantly undercounted, given many are likely testing positive on at-home tests. The poll’s responses on social distancing come as mask mandates across the U.S. and other Covid-19 restrictions have lifted this year even amid rising case counts, as leaders push for people to “learn to live with” the coronavirus despite public health experts criticizing that approach. Efforts to reimpose mask mandates in recent months in response to rising Covid-19 metrics have failed, with Philadelphia abandoning its mask order in April just days after reinstating it amid public outcry, and Los Angeles backtracking on a plan to reimpose its mask mandate in July. Public health experts have advised Americans to still remain cautious and try to avoid contracting the coronavirus, however, given the risk of “Long Covid” and transmitting the virus to people who are more vulnerable.

Further Reading

Americans Less Optimistic About COVID-19 Situation (Gallup)

BA.5 Is Driving A Wave Of Covid Infections, But Not Deaths—Here’s Why Experts Say We Should Still Be Cautious (Forbes)

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