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COVID-19 and Public Opinion

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Overview

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted economies, business, schools, and lives around the globe. IPR researchers are conducting national surveys to better understand how American attitudes and behaviors are evolving in relation to the pandemic.

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Research Roundup

Why Do Unvaccinated Americans Wear Masks?

October 2021

While 29% of Americans are still unvaccinated, nearly two-thirds of this group (19%) are concerned enough about the spread of COVID-19 to regularly wear a mask—and the No. 1 reason for a large majority of them is concern about family members contracting COVID-19. IPR political scientist James Druckman uncovers that 62.6 million Americans, or nearly one-fifth of the U.S. population, fall into this unvaccinated, mask-wearing group. The poll also finds high levels of worry over personally contracting COVID-19 among both vaccinated mask wearers (72%) and unvaccinated mask wearers (62%). And for both, their highest level of concern was for the welfare of their family members in possibly contracting COVID-19 (84% and 75%, respectively).

Parents’ Concerns About COVID-19 Vaccines Grew From June to September 2021

October 2021

IPR political scientist James Druckman and his colleagues at Northeastern, Harvard, and Rutgers universities also reveal most parents are most concerned about the possible long-term effects of the COVID-19 vaccines and if the vaccines underwent enough testing. Parents’ concerns about the long-term effects spiked from 50% in June to 65% in September, while concerns about testing grew from 51% to 63%. Parents who report the most concerns about the COVID-19 vaccines include younger mothers ages 18 to 35, parents of young children, parents with unvaccinated children ages 12 to 18, Republicans and Independents, Black and Hispanic parents, parents without a college degree, and parents in rural areas. 

Support for Vaccine Mandates Remains High, While Approval Drops for the President’s Handling of the Pandemic

October 2021

The survey by IPR political scientist James Druckman shows a majority would also support narrower vaccine mandates for students attending school or college and for travelers flying commercially. Six out of 10 Americans also support requiring large companies to either vaccinate or regularly tested their employees for COVID-19. Despite President Biden’s actions to curb the spread of COVID-19 through vaccine mandates, another survey conducted at the same time finds that approval of his handling of the pandemic dropped from 57% in June to 49% by September. His approval ratings also declined across political parties, dropping by -5% among Democrats, -7% among Republicans, and -8% among Independents. 

Healthcare Workers Are More Vaccine Enthusiastic, But 27% Are Not Vaccinated

August 2021

In February and March, IPR political scientist James Druckman and his colleagues evaluated vaccine attitudes among healthcare workers. Now an August report revisits healthcare workers' attitudes and vaccination rates. As of July, the results show that 27% of healthcare workers are unvaccinated, and 15% are vaccine resistant. The survey suggests that without vaccine mandates, unvaccinated healthcare workers may remain unvaccinated. Additionally, healthcare workers appear to be more vaccine enthusiastic than the general population.

Survey Investigates Parental Concerns About COVID-19 Vaccine

August 2021

An August 2021 survey by IPR political scientist James Druckman explores parents’ concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine for their kids. The researchers find the top concerns among parents are whether the vaccine has been tested enough (51%), the potential for lasting health effects (50%), and how new the vaccine is (46%). Additionally, the data show moms are more likely than dads to express concerns about COVID-19 vaccinations for their children. Their top concern is whether the vaccine has been tested enough (58%).

Survey Explores Misinformation Beliefs Among Americans

August 2021

Twenty percent of Americans believe at least one COVID-19 vaccine misinformation statement is true, according to an August 2021 survey from a research consortium that includes Northwestern University. Additionally, IPR political scientist James Druckman and his colleagues find more than half (51%) of the respondents report they are not sure whether to believe at least one false statement. The groups most likely to hold vaccine misperceptions include people aged 25–44, those with high socioeconomic status, and Republicans. Over 25% in each group said at least one false statement was true.

What Do Americans Think About People Who Are Not Vaccinated?

August 2021

According to the latest results from a national survey by IPR political scientist James Druckman, Americans have more favorable feelings toward people who are vaccinated against COVID-19. Between June 9 and July 7, the researchers surveyed 20,669 people across the United States and explored people's thoughts about people who are not vaccinated. Using a thermometer scale from 0 to 100 degrees, the researchers find the average feeling toward vaccinated people is 78 degrees compared to 45 degrees for those who are not vaccinated.

Survey Finds 64% of Americans Support Government Vaccine Mandates

July 2021

As delta variant infections grow in the U.S., support for vaccine mandates is rising, too. A survey by IPR political scientist James Druckman and his colleagues from the COVID States Project finds support for vaccine mandates increased from 58% in April to 64% in June. Between June 9 and July 7, the researchers surveyed 20,669 individuals across the U.S. and asked people whether they supported federal, state, and local government vaccination mandates. The results show strong support for government vaccine mandates in most states, with the highest in Massachusetts (81.1%) and lowest in Wyoming (45.7%).

Is Facebook ‘Killing Us’? A New Survey Investigates

July 2021

Between June 9 and July 7, IPR political scientist James Druckman and his colleagues from the COVID States Project asked 20,669 people across the U.S. to name news sources they rely on for COVID-19 updates, vaccination rates and information. The researchers found Facebook is a significant source of COVID-19 news. Three in 10 people (33%) reported visiting Facebook in the last 24 hours to find news about COVID-19. People who relied on Facebook for COVID-19 news had substantially lower vaccination rates than the overall U.S. population. Additionally, those who received most of their news from Facebook displayed lower levels of institutional trust and greater acceptance of misinformation.

Want to Vaccinate More Americans? Get Top Republicans to Endorse Vaccines

July 2021

As the highly transmissible Delta variant pushes up cases of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the U.S. to alarming levels, President Joe Biden and other top administration officials have taken to the airwaves, urgently pressing more Americans to get vaccinated. But a new study shows that messages from top Democrats could actually deter Republicans, the most vaccine-hesitant group, from getting the life-saving vaccines. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, IPR political scientist James Druckman, along with researchers from Stanford and MIT, surveyed nearly 1,500 Republicans between March 17 and 24 about their willingness to get vaccinated and their likelihood to encourage others to do so.

Survey Shows Growing Support for Vaccinating Children and School Vaccine Mandates

July 2021

Children under 12 may be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines by September or October, but will parents vaccinate their children? New survey results from IPR political scientist James Druckman and his colleagues reveal that overall, Americans have grown more supportive of vaccinating children now than when compared to surveys taken earlier this year. Still, uneven trends emerge based on the respondents’ age and gender. Young mothers and mothers of young children remain the most resistant to vaccinating their children. 

Social Isolation Is Down Overall, But Some Americans Remain Isolated

July 2021

As states reopen and lift COVID-19 safety measures, a new survey of more than 185,000 people from all 50 states shows another sign of improvement—levels of social isolation are falling. IPR political scientist James Druckman and his colleagues looked at 15 months of data, finding that the percentage of socially isolated respondents fell most among people with high incomes and education. But those who are unemployed and poor remain more isolated than other segments of the population.

The Economy and Pandemic Are Improving, Mental Health Is Not

May 2021

Despite the optimism around the pandemic’s progress, a national survey conducted by IPR political scientist James Druckman finds that depression and other mental health issues have not improved since the winter. Over a fourth (28%) meet moderate levels of depression that would result in evaluation and treatment. While the numbers have slightly decreased from 30% in December 2020, depression rates are three times the levels before the pandemic.

More Americans Oppose Vaccine Passports Than Support Them

May 2021

As more Americans receive the COVID-19 vaccine and communities begin re-opening, many remain divided about whether proof of vaccination, or “vaccine passports,” should be required to shop in person or travel. A new national survey by IPR political scientist James Druckman and his colleagues finds only 27% of respondents on average support vaccine passports, while 50% oppose them. 

Support for School Vaccination Requirements Rises from 54% to 58%, But Some Resistance Remains

May 2021

Between April 1 and May 3, IPR political scientist James Druckman and his colleagues surveyed 21,733 individuals across the country about their attitudes on childhood vaccinations. The results indicate cities and Democratic-leaning states will be more likely to implement vaccination requirements: 76% of Democrats support them versus only 38% of Republicans and those in cities (66%) are more likely to be in favor of them than those in suburban (56%) and rural areas (49%). 

Americans Shift Toward "Pro-Vaccine" Direction After J&J Vaccine Pause

April 2021

On April 13, the FDA and CDC recommended pausing the use of the Johnson and Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine. A new survey by a consortium of four universities, which includes IPR political scientist James Druckmansuggests the pause did not have negative effects on vaccination attitudes. Nearly 74% of respondents were aware of the pause, but vaccine hesitancy and resistance did not increase after the pause. However, respondents did show a vaccine preference after the pause. People preferred Pfizer over Moderna and they preferred Moderna over J&J. 

Vaccination Rates for Healthcare Workers Have Doubled

March 2021

Since January, more U.S. healthcare workers have said they are ready to get vaccinated, with rates of vaccine hesitancy dropping from 37% to 29%, according to a new survey from a research consortium that includes IPR political scientist James Druckman. The same survey finds a similar drop in the hesitancy rate for workers outside of healthcare, falling from 41% to 31%. The survey also shows the rate of vaccination has doubled among healthcare workers, and those with a graduate degree have been vaccinated at four times the rate of those with a high school degree or less (43% versus 13%).

Survey Shows 53% of Americans Support Biden’s Handling of COVID-19

March 2021

A new survey looks at how much Democrats and Republicans approve, or disapprove, of their governors and the president’s handling of COVID-19. IPR political scientist James Druckman and his colleagues found Republicans are generally more disapproving of their governors—even more so when their governor is a Democrat. Meanwhile, Democrats have increased their ratings for all governors on average, especially Republican ones. The research is part of an ongoing national survey of more than 170,000 Americans between April 2020 and February 2021. 

Survey Shows Parents Are More Hesitant to Get Vaccines for Their Kids

March 2021

Between February 5 and March 1, IPR political scientist James Druckman  surveyed more than 19,700 individuals to determine whether parents are more skeptical of coronavirus vaccines than other adults. The survey results show parents are more hesitant about getting the coronavirus vaccine for themselves and their children than those without children across different socioeconomic and demographic groups, with young mothers driving the gap. Mothers between the ages of 18 and 35 are a third less likely to get the vaccine as soon as it becomes available and nearly a third more likely to refuse it altogether. Mothers are also more skeptical of vaccines than fathers: 27% of mothers say they are extremely unlikely to vaccinate their children versus 14% of fathers.

New Survey Shows Wide Gaps in Who Is Getting Vaccinated

March 2021

A new national survey of more than 21,000 Americans underscores that wide disparities still exist in terms of who has been able to get a vaccine so far. It also pinpoints how a complex system of vaccine distribution cuts off the people best placed to convince more vulnerable Americans to get one. The researchers, including IPR political scientist James Druckman conducted the survey between February 5 and March 1. They find that education was the biggest predictor of who had already been vaccinated: 29% of respondents with graduate degrees had already received their COVID shots versus just 9% of those with a high school diploma or less, and the figures were similar for vaccine hesitancy (8% vs. 30%).

National Survey Shows 13% of Healthcare Workers Are Vaccinated

February 2021

In new national survey by IPR political scientist James Druckman while healthcare workers held similar attitudes to most Americans on their hesitancy in, and resistance to, getting vaccinated, they were more likely to be vaccinated overall (13%) than Americans generally (2%) since they are on the COVID frontlines as essential workers. The survey finds that education, income, gender, and race/ethnicity are strong predictors of vaccination rates, as well as of vaccine hesitancy and resistance among those at the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19.

Two-Thirds of Parents Voice Concern About Students’ Learning Losses

February 2021

Two-thirds of respondents (67%), whether students or parents, say they are concerned about the quality of K–12 learning during the pandemic, according to a new national survey of more than 25,000 people by Northwestern, Northeastern, Rutgers, and Harvard universities, including IPR political scientist James Druckman. The finding holds across respondents from different racial backgrounds, incomes, and political affiliations.

Gun Sales Spike in 2020

February 2021

A new national survey by IPR political scientist James Druckman that took place between December 16 and January 11 shows nearly 9,000 of 25,000 Americans said they bought guns in 2020. Protesters of police violence or people who attended a rally in support of former President Trump were approximately between 2 and 4 times more likely to buy a gun than those who did not attend. For those who attended a protest against police violence or racism, 13% bought a gun. But that increased to 23% for those attending a rally to support Trump or to protest election fairness or COVID-19 restrictions. 

National Survey Finds Most Americans Favor Vaccination

January 2021

As President Joe Biden promises to vaccinate more than 100 million Americans by the end of his first 100 days in office (April 29), new research offers several critical insights for those in charge of managing such a massive national public health effort. IPR political scientist James Druckman and his colleagues surveyed  show that Americans generally favor getting a vaccination themselves (75%) and do not typically believe COVID-19 vaccine misinformation, though certain groups are more likely to believe false information about vaccines. They are also more likely to be swayed to get vaccinated by messages from their doctors and scientists than those from famous political figures, athletes, or actors, and generally agree with current policies prioritizing which groups should get vaccinated first, such as frontline medical personnel and first responders.

As Latest Relief Package Passes, 1 in 5 Americans Confronts Severe Economic Hardships

December 2020

A new survey by IPR political scientist James Druckman reveals the dismal scope of many Americans’ economic struggles as Congress approves an eleventh-hour $900 billion pandemic relief package before remaining benefits expire at the end of December. Between November 3 and 30, the researchers asked roughly 20,000 individuals across the United States and Washington, D.C. about five key economic hardships: unemployment, pay cuts, evictions, making rent or a house payment, and stopping or cutting work to take care of children.

As Coronavirus Cases Jump, Illinoisans Slip in Following Public Health Guidelines

November 2020

As COVID-19 cases in Illinois surge past spring’s high point, a new survey examining people’s behaviors in the state shows that colder weather driving people indoors and COVID fatigue are likely behind the virus’ deadly second wave. The number of COVID-19 cases in Illinois has increased sharply over the last two months from about 2,000 cases per day in late September to a seven-day rolling average of roughly 12,000 daily cases since mid-November. “The numbers are not promising in terms of what to expect in the coming months,” said IPR political scientist James Druckman. “It seems that necessary behaviors are slipping, and this could put extreme strain on our healthcare infrastructure.”

More Wearing Masks But Fewer Staying Six Feet Apart

November 2020

As the United States waits to see how high already grim rates of COVID-19 will go after Thanksgiving, a new survey by IPR political scientist James Druckman shows that the states with the lowest levels of social distancing behaviors and mask wearing since the pandemic started are enduring the most severe outbreaks now. Researchers tracked how closely more than 139,000 people followed public health recommendations over 10 waves of surveys from April to November 2020 in every state plus the District of Columbia.

Most Americans Support Restrictive Measures to Curb COVID-19

November 2020

Despite differing opinions about whether shutdowns have been effective, new survey results by IPR political scientist James Druckman show 6 in 10 Americans support more restrictive measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Following the election, researchers surveyed nearly 20,000 individuals across the nation between November 3 and 23. They asked about seven key restrictions: staying at home, gathering in large groups, closing businesses, limiting restaurants to carry-out, prohibiting in-person K–12 classes, canceling events, and restricting travel. Another survey finds more people are also wearing masks but fewer are staying six feet apart. States with lowest rates of distancing and mask wearing now suffering the worst COVID outbreaks.

Depression Among Young Adults Soars During Pandemic

November 2020

A new survey  of over 8,900 young adults, aged 18–24, across the U.S. finds that they showed higher levels of depression amid the pandemic, no matter their gender, racial or ethnic group, or geographic location. Nearly half  (47%) of those surveyed described having at least moderate symptoms of depression. More urgently, over a third (37%) reported occasional thoughts that they might be better off dead, or had thoughts of harming themselves—a tenfold increase in the rate prior to the pandemic. "In terms of long-term consequences of COVID-19, the mental health of young people may be one of the most important," said IPR political scientist James Druckman, who co-leads the survey. 

Which Issues Top Americans’ Minds as They Vote?

November 2020

As the nation heads into Election Day, a survey  by IPR political scientist James Druckman of more than 20,000 American voters on the most important problems facing the U.S. finds their top answers, including the coronavirus at No. 1 overall, align more with issues that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has focused on during his campaign. The researchers show that COVID-19 topped the list for voters in every state but Alaska, where 16% of respondents chose climate change instead. Other first-picks mentioned were racism (10% ranked it first), the economy (8%), healthcare (7%), and crime and violence (6%).

Belief in American Exceptionalism Declines

July 2020

According to IPR sociologist Beth Redbird's survey results, there has been a decline in Americans' belief in U.S. exceptionalism compared to other countries when it comes to institutions such as the healthcare system and the economy. Even institutions seemly unaffected by the pandemic, such as the military and the criminal justice system took a hit. Throughout the pandemic, Americans have developed more negative attitudes about the Republican Party, while attitudes about the Democratic Party have largely been stable.