The latest polling from Axios and Ipsos finds that a growing number of Americans say they have gone out to eat, visited their friends, and shopped at non-grocery retail stores in recent weeks—and unvaccinated people are especially likely to have scaled back on social distancing.
CDC guidance still encourages social distancing
CDC currently advises that even fully vaccinated people continue taking significant precautions to avoid the spread of the novel coronavirus, although those precautions are less stringent than guidance for unvaccinated people.
Specifically, CDC guidance states that fully vaccinated people can spend time indoors without wearing masks or social distancing with other fully vaccinated people and with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at a low risk of developing a severe case of Covid-19.
However, the guidance states that fully vaccinated people should still take precautions when visiting unvaccinated people from multiple households, visiting unvaccinated people who are at an increased risk for severe Covid-19, or in public. In these circumstances, CDC recommends that fully vaccinated people wear face masks, stay at least six feet away from others, and meet outdoors or in a well-ventilated place.
Americans are resuming public activities
For the poll, researchers surveyed a nationally representative sample of 995 adults ages 18 and older between March 19 and March 22. The poll has been conducted in waves since March 2020, with these latest findings coming from the 42nd iteration of the survey.
The poll found that many Americans are starting to go out in public more than they have in past months. Specifically, the number of people who said they had gone out to eat rose 12 percentage points, from 33% to 45% compared with last month, marking the highest share in a year.
Meanwhile, the number of people who said they visited their friends or relatives increased nine percentage points, from 39% to 48%, compared with last month, and more than half of Americans said they had visited a non-grocery retail store—the highest rate since the start of the poll.
Unvaccinated, rather than vaccinated, are more likely to go out
However, many of those who are venturing out into public are unvaccinated rather than vaccinated, the poll found. For instance, 52% of unvaccinated Americans said they had visited friends or relatives in the past week—compared with 41% of vaccinated Americans.
In addition, unvaccinated Americans were more likely to say that doing activities outside the home didn't pose a risk to their health or wellbeing, the poll found, and vaccinated Americans were more likely to say they had socially distanced within the past week.
The poll also found that about one in five respondents said they are "not at all" likely to get vaccinated, citing reasons ranging from wanting to know more about side effects to believing they didn't need a vaccine since they had previously had Covid-19. And while only very small shares of Americans (in the low single digits) said they believe the vaccine is more dangerous than the virus, that it promotes cancer, or other incorrect claims, roughly between 25% and 50% of respondents said they didn't know whether such claims were true or false.
Americans remain (somewhat) cautious
Although more Americans are venturing out into public, the survey still found that a majority of Americans (59%) said they believe returning to their regular, pre-coronavirus lifestyle poses either a large or moderate risk to their health—although that percentage was down 11 percentage points from the end of last year.
People's adherence to certain coronavirus precautions remained steady. For instance, the poll found that more than 70% of Americans reported wearing a mask at all times when they left their house, a rate that hasn't changed in recent weeks.
However, social distancing rates have gone down over the past month, the poll found, with 44% of Americans saying they're maintaining a distance of six feet at all times, down from 54% who said the same a month ago.
That said, 80% of Americans said they intend to continue wearing masks and almost two-thirds said they intend to continue social distancing even after receiving their Covid-19 vaccines (Talev, Axios, 3/23; Jackson et. al., Ipsos news, 3/23).