December 15, 2021

Charted: How worried Americans are about Covid-19—and what they're willing to do about it

Daily Briefing

    As the omicron variant spreads throughout the United States, a recent poll from the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found more Americans are concerned about Covid-19 now than in previous months. However, fewer are taking personal precautions compared with the spring.

    The policies Biden and states could use to control the omicron variant

    Americans' concerns about Covid-19

    For the poll, researchers surveyed 1,089 adults from Dec. 2 through Dec. 7. They found that 36% of respondents said they're extremely or very worried about themselves or a family member getting Covid-19, an increase from 25% in October.

    However, while 71% of vaccinated people said they are at least somewhat concerned about Covid-19, 55% of unvaccinated people said they have little or no worry about it.

    Meanwhile, 57% of respondents said they are still staying away from large groups, a number that has remained fairly steady since June. However, 57% of respondents said they wear a face mask when around other people outside their home, a slight increase from 51% in August but significantly less than the 78% who said the same in April and May.

    And while more Americans are concerned about Covid-19 now, activity levels are still about the same as they were in June, with large majorities of Americans saying they plan to go shopping in person for non-essential items, go out to a bar or restaurant, or visit friends or family.

    Discussion

    David Cotton, a VP of public health research and evaluation at NORC who did not personally work on the survey, said the poll's results suggest many Americans are still willing to take Covid-19 precautions even over a year into the pandemic.

    "In some ways I find that encouraging, that there are so many people who continue to persist and follow the science and take care of one another," Cotton said.

    But Tara Kirk Sell, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said people are less likely to change their lives once a threat becomes familiar to them.

    "We've been dealing with Covid for a long time, and we're going to be dealing with it for a long time," Sell said. "People are going to want to do things, so the focus should be on how can we help people think through those risks … rather than saying don't do 'X' or focusing on getting to zero risk." (AP-NORC poll, 12/13; Foody, Associated Press, 12/13)

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