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Axios-Ipsos poll: The coronavirus wakeup call

Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Note: ±3.1% margin of error for November poll, ±3.3% for October; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The nationwide surge in coronavirus infections is prompting someAmericans to take high-risk behaviors more seriously, according to the latest installment of the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Why it matters: Our latest survey shows that more people — and more Republicans, in particular — are attuned to the risks of indoor activities. That’s a positive sign, if the U.S. has any hope of getting this latest outbreak under control.

By the numbers: 39% of Americans say attending indoor gatherings of family and friends would be highly risky — up from 28% in our last survey, conducted about three weeks ago.

  • Similarly, there was an 11-point jump in the number of people who said dining inside a restaurant is high-risk.

Between the lines: Our survey has consistently found that Republicans are less concerned about the coronavirus, by almost any measure. But Republicans and Independents are beginning to come around on the risk of indoor dining and socializing, and that’s what’s driving the overall increase in risk perception.

  • Over 80% of Democrats already thought those activities were high-risk in our last survey; they didn’t have much room to grow.
  • But 52% of Republicans now see in-person gatherings as risky, up from 40% in late October.
  • The share of Republicans who see indoor dining as risky rose by 8 percentage points, from 37% to 45%. Among Independents, the jump was 9 points.

Our thought bubble: Americans’ risk perceptions are becoming more accurate, and that’s a necessary first step toward ultimately getting this pandemic under control.

  • The virus spreads more easily indoors, where it can hang in the air. Social distancing is often harder indoors. And it’s impossible to wear a mask while eating, adding an extra layer of risk to indoor dining.

There are some indications that people are adapting their behavior, too..

  • 39% of Americans in the most recent survey said they had visited friends or family in the past week — a 10% drop from our late-October poll.
  • Going out to eat, however, held steady at about 40%.
  • 45% said they're planning to celebrate this holiday season only with their immediate households, compared to 17% who said they would see family and friends like they normally do.

Our latest survey also captured small but potentially meaningful shifts in employment trends, with modest increases in the number of people who say they’ve been temporarily furloughed or begun working from home, and in the number who said their employers have shut down altogether.

What’s next: Americans remain optimistic about a vaccine, the survey shows.

  • The most recent poll was conducted after Pfizer announced that its vaccine candidate was 90% effective, and before Moderna’s announcement yesterday that its candidate was nearly 95% effective.
  • A strong majority in our poll — 61% — said they would take a first-generation vaccine that was at least 90% effective. Respondents have consistently prioritized ensuring that a vaccine is safe over being able to get it quickly.

Methodology: This Axios/Ipsos Poll was conducted Nov. 13-16 by Ipsos’ KnowledgePanel® among a nationally representative sample of 1,092 adults. It has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points.

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