Even as pandemic restrictions ease, 6 in 10 prioritize COVID-19 controls: POLL

Fewer say they've resumed their normal, pre-virus lives than in July.

March 1, 2022, 7:00 AM
PHOTO: A sign requiring masks as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus is posted on a store front in Philadelphia, Feb. 16, 2022.
A sign requiring masks as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus is posted on a store front in Philadelphia, Feb. 16, 2022.
Matt Rourke/AP, FILE

Even as the pandemic situation sharply improves and protective mandates are lifted, just a third of Americans see the coronavirus as mainly controlled – and six in 10 say it's more important to try to contain the virus than to lift restrictions on normal activities.

Fifty-eight percent in this ABC News/Washington Post poll continue to prioritize controlling the spread of the virus, 20 percentage points more than the share (38%) who say it's more important to discontinue restrictions.

See PDF for full results, charts and tables.

That's informed by continued concern about an unpredictable virus that has taken nearly 950,000 American lives and continues to infect nearly 70,000 and kill 1,700 daily. Thirty-four percent see the outbreak as completely or mostly controlled, up from about two in 10 last month (in a Fox News poll of registered voters), but still far from a majority. Half instead say it's "somewhat" under control.

That said, the most dire views have improved sharply. Just 15% now say the outbreak is "not at all" under control, down sharply from 41% last month, when the omicron surge was in full swing, with a seven-day average of as many as 800,000 daily cases.

The poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, was completed a day before the CDC dropped its recommendation of indoor masking for the roughly seven in 10 people who live in areas with low or medium transmission levels. Nearly all states with mask requirements had already discontinued them.

Normal life

Another result points to cautious re-emergence. While 56% say they've fully or mostly resumed their pre-coronavirus life, that's 10 points below its level in July, before the delta and omicron variants spurred record levels of infections. About a quarter say they've partly returned to normal; and 16%, barely or not at all. The latter is up from 9% last July.

Returning to normality is associated strongly with views of the pandemic. Among people who see the outbreak as completely or mostly controlled, seven in 10 report having largely resumed their pre-coronavirus life. That falls to 29% who say it's not at all controlled. Indeed, 48% in this group barely have returned to normal life, if at all.

Groups

Partisanship and ideology continue to be the main dividing lines. Just more than eight in 10 Democrats and liberals alike say it's more important to control the virus, even if that means having some restrictions on normal activities, than to do away with restrictions. Most moderates (66%) and independents (59%) agree. Instead, 64% of Republicans and 63% of conservatives prefer no restrictions, even if that harms efforts to control the virus.

Sixty-three percent of Republicans and as many conservatives say they've largely resumed their pre-coronavirus life, compared with 44% of Democrats and liberals. Independents and moderates are closer to Republicans and conservatives on this measure, at 58% and 57%.

Notably, there's much less of a political division on whether or not the virus has been fully or mostly controlled – 41% of Republicans say so, as do similar numbers of independents (32%) and Democrats (29%). Majorities across partisan lines instead say the virus is somewhat or not at all under control – 56% of Republicans, 66% of independents and 70% of Democrats hold this view.

Methodology

This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone Feb. 20-24, 2022, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,011 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 4.0 percentage points, including the design effect. Partisan divisions are 27-26-40%, Democrats-Republicans-independents.

The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y., with sampling and data collection by Abt Associates of Rockville, Md. See details on the survey's methodology here.

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