More Americans express concern about the impact of Covid-19 now than at any time during the pandemic according to the Monmouth University Poll. President Joe Biden gets positive marks for his first steps in dealing with the crisis, although most continue to say the American public is not doing its part. A bare majority of the public is ready to get the coronavirus vaccine as soon as it is available to them, while others take a wait-and-see attitude and a sizable 1 in 4 say they will avoid getting the vaccine at all if they can help it.
Half (50%) of the public plans to get the Covid vaccine as soon as they are allowed. Those willing to be at the front of the line represent a majority of American adults when combined with the 6% who report already receiving the vaccine. Another 19% say they would prefer to let other people get it first to see how it goes. However, 24% say it is likely they will never get the vaccine if they can avoid it.
Democrats are most eager to get the vaccine as soon as possible (72% when combined with those who already got the vaccine) – much more so than independents (51%) and Republicans (39%). More than 4 in 10 Republicans (42%) say they will avoid ever getting the vaccine if they can, which is significantly higher than the number of independents (25%) and Democrats (10%) who feel the same.
Demographically, Americans aged 65 and older are more likely to be first in line for the vaccine (67% want to get it as soon as they are allowed or have already received it) than younger adults (52%). Those under age 65 (27%) are somewhat more likely than seniors (16%) to say they will never get the vaccine. These differences shift dramatically, though, when filtered through the lens of partisanship.
The age-based gap in attitudes toward the vaccine is enormous among Republicans and independents who lean toward the GOP, but it virtually disappears among Democrats and Democratic leaners. Specifically, 63% of Republican identifiers aged 65 and older have received or want to be first in line for the vaccine while just 18% say they will avoid getting it. Among Republicans under 65 years old, only 33% are willing to line up for the vaccine right away, while nearly half (45%) never want to get it. Among those who identify as Democrats, there are no significant age-based differences for willingness to get the vaccine as soon as possible (71% age 65+ and 70% age 18-64) or to avoid it if they can (13% age 65+ and 9% age 18-64).
Overall, white Americans (58%) are slightly more likely than Americans of color (52%) to be willing to be first in line for the vaccine. There are some racial differences among Democratic identifiers – mainly, 79% of white Democrats versus 62% of Democrats of color either have received the vaccine or want to get it as soon as possible. However, the number who say they would avoid getting the vaccine entirely hovers around 1 in 10 for both Democratic groups (8% white and 12% people of color). There are no significant race-based differences among Republican identifiers in the number who do not want to get the vaccine, representing about 4 in 10 GOPers who are white (40%) and other races (37%) alike.
“Reluctance to get the vaccine is driven more by partisanship than any single demographic factor. It says a lot about the depth of our partisan divide that it could impact public health like this,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute. [Note: the poll was conducted before the announcement that Johnson & Johnson would soon ask for emergency approval of its vaccine.]
Six in ten Americans (60%) say they are very concerned about someone in their family becoming seriously ill from the coronavirus. This marks the highest level of concern since the pandemic hit the nation. The percentage who are very concerned registered a low of 37% in early June and then climbed to 50% in November. The uptick in concern since the summer has been across the board although it is still higher among Democrats (79% now up from 58% in June) than it is among independents (55%, from 32%) and Republicans (41%, from 22%). Concern about a family member getting sick from Covid is higher among people of color (70%) than it is among white Americans (55%), and somewhat higher among seniors (67%) than it is among those under 65 years old (58%).
President Biden gets positive reviews for his initial handling of the crisis, with 58% saying he has done a good job and 23% saying he has done a bad job. His predecessor left office with a largely negative rating for his handling of the outbreak. Just 34% say Donald Trump did a good job and 63% say he did a bad job – his all-time worst rating on the crisis since the pandemic began.
Seven in ten (71%) Americans are confident (36% very and 35% somewhat) that Biden can put the country on the road to recovery from the outbreak. This is up from 52% who felt this way during the presidential campaign in September and also higher than 44% in the same poll who felt confident that Trump could steer the country out of the pandemic. Nearly all Democrats (97%) and more than 2 in 3 independents (69%) have at least some confidence in Biden’s ability to get the virus under control. They are joined by 36% of Republicans in this view.
“A third of Republicans expressing confidence in Biden does not sound like much, but given the current environment it might just qualify as overwhelming bipartisanship,” said Murray.
In other ratings, the public continues to give relatively high marks to their state governors’ handling of the pandemic (57% good job to 38% bad job) and have a net positive opinion of health agencies in the federal government (52% to 40%). Positive views of governors’ handling of the outbreak started off in the low-70s last spring, then dipped to the high-60s before settling in the high-50s to low-60s by the late summer. Positive opinion of federal health agencies began in the mid-60s but had dipped to 46% in August before ticking back up to the current reading. The American public, on the other hand, continues to get negative ratings for how it has been dealing with the outbreak – 32% good job to 60% bad job. The good job number given to our fellow Americans started off in the high 30s in March and rose to 51% in May before starting to decline over the ensuing months to bottom out at 26% in August.
Three in ten (29%) Americans think the country will get the outbreak under control and be able to return to normal by this summer. Another 39% believe it will take until the end of the year, but 24% say it will take longer than that and 6% do not have any hope of returning to normal. Sixty-five percent say the pandemic has had a major impact on their daily lives, up from 54% in November.
The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from January 21 to 24, 2021 with 809 adults in the United States. The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.