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America says goodbye to the pandemic

Data: Axios-Ipsos poll; Survey of U.S. adults, March 5-8 and June 4-7, 2021; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

In a very short time, Americans have returned to doing the things many haven't done in a long time — and now see less risk than ever in returning to their pre-pandemic lives, according to the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

The big picture: The number of people who say they've ventured out to eat or see friends and relatives has been inching up steadily as Americans get their shots. And compared to just three months ago, their perception of the risk has plummeted.

By the numbers: In our poll at the beginning of March, six out of 10 Americans (61%) said they saw a large to moderate risk in returning to their pre-coronavirus lives. In this week's poll, just 30% said that.

  • There was a significant drop even since our last poll two weeks ago, when 38% said they saw a return to pre-COVID life as a large to moderate risk.
  • Even though Americans are still divided by party over COVID precautions — with Republicans less likely than Democrats to worry about going about their lives — there's been a huge drop in anxiety across the board over the past three months.
  • In our March 5-8 poll, 58% of Republicans, 22% of Democrats and 41% of independents said they saw little to no risk in returning to pre-pandemic life.
  • This week, 87% of Republicans, 58% of Democrats and 70% of independents said that.

There's been a big jump in Americans going back to the activities they used to enjoy. 61% of Americans in this week's poll said they'd gone out to eat in the past week, compared to 39% three months ago.

  • And 66% said they had visited friends or relatives in the past week, compared to 44% at the beginning of March.
  • Most Americans are seeing little to no risk in gathering with friends and family outside the household (72%), shopping at retail stores (73%), and even taking a vacation (63%).
  • They still view some activities as large to moderate risks, though — like flying on an airplane or taking mass transit (55%), going to an indoor concert (57%), and going to a bar or indoor nightclub (58%).

Between the lines: The change is most likely the impact of federal and state government officials "nudging people toward normality," with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxing its mask guidance and state and local governments easing up on COVID restrictions, said Cliff Young, president of Ipsos U.S. public affairs.

  • "They're taking their signals from government bodies," Young said. "Once these public entities make a determination, behavior follows."

What to watch: The poll didn't find a lot of demand for proof of vaccinations to be required for many activities — but it did find that Americans were split nearly down the middle on whether employers should require them before employees can return to the workplace.

  • 52% said they support requiring proof of vaccination to return to work, while 48% were opposed.
  • Respondents supported vaccination proof requirements most strongly for travel — like vacations (61%), flying on a plane within the U.S. (64%), and flying internationally (67%) — and for sporting events (56%).
  • They opposed the requirements for everyday activities like dining at a restaurant (53%) and shopping at retail stores (57%).

Methodology: This Axios/Ipsos Poll was conducted June 4-7 by Ipsos' KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,027 general population adults age 18 or older.

  • The margin of sampling error is ±3.2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample of adults.

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