With Omicron, Americans Are Taking More Personal Precautions

To feel safe while in participating in public life, 59% of the public consider it essential to be vaccinated. Most believe the pandemic will end when COVID-19 becomes more like the seasonal flu.

January 27, 2022

As public health officials closely monitor the spread and severity of the omicron variant, most Americans are again avoiding travel, staying away from large groups, and wearing masks. To feel safe while participating in public life, 59% consider it essential that they personally are vaccinated.  Few Americans think the pandemic will end with the virus largely eliminated and 83% believe it will end when COVID becomes more like seasonal flu.

Americans are more inclined to stay away from large groups, wear a face mask, and avoid nonessential travel than they were in December 2021. However, fewer people are using these precautions than before vaccines were widely available. In February 2021, more than 7 in 10 Americans reported staying away from large groups, wearing face masks, and avoiding travel.

Vaccinated Americans are more likely to take these precautions than the unvaccinated.

Nearly two years from the start of the pandemic in the United States, most Americans understand what to do if they are exposed to or test positive for COVID-19 and whether there are out-of-pocket costs for the COVID vaccine or tests. Unvaccinated adults are less likely to say they have a good understanding of out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 vaccines or tests.

Thinking about what it means for the pandemic to be over, 83% believe the pandemic will end when COVID-19 largely becomes more like seasonal flu. Just 15% of Americans think the pandemic will end when COVID-19 is largely eliminated, like polio.

For things to get back to normal, most Americans consider it essential to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and nearly half regard a booster as essential.  Eighty-five percent of Democrats say it’s essential that they themselves have received a vaccine, compared with 38% of Republicans.

Most Americans also think it’s important that nearly all people have received a COVID-19 vaccine and that people get booster shots.  Again, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to call it essential that nearly all people receive a COVID-19 vaccine, 69% to 24%.

Among parents of children under 18, 37% say it’s essential that their own children are vaccinated against COVID-19, and another 26% say it’s important but not essential.

Overall, 45% approve of how Biden is handling the coronavirus pandemic and 54% disapprove. Twenty-three percent of the public have a great deal of confidence in the president’s ability to get the country through the pandemic, while 38% only have some confidence and 37% have hardly any confidence.

Only 31% trust the president as a source of information about the vaccines, 24% have a moderate amount of trust and 46% have little or no trust. The public is slightly more likely to believe information that comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Forty-four percent have a lot of trust, 24% are moderately trustful, and 33% have little or no trust in the CDC as a source of information on COVID-19 vaccines.

The public is generally positive about how the Biden administration is handling access to the COVID-19 vaccines. Still, Americans are less positive about the administration’s handling of the testing.

Americans generally rate their communities positively for providing access to COVID-19 vaccines, health care, and COVID-19 testing.  About half say their community is doing a good job communicating about the pandemic response and about the vaccine safety and effectiveness.

Fewer think people in their community are doing a good job reducing the spread of COVID-19 or that local K-12 schools are doing a good job handling the pandemic.

Overall, 77% of adults report receiving at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Older Americans, college graduates, and Democrats continue to have higher vaccination rates than others.

While 71% of those who are vaccinated still are at least somewhat worried about infections, 55% of those who are unvaccinated say they have little or no worry. Eighty-two percent of Democrats are at least somewhat worried, compared with 51% of Republicans.

The nationwide poll was conducted January 13-18, 2022, using the AmeriSpeak® Panel, the probability-based panel of NORC at the University of Chicago. Online and telephone interviews using landlines and cell phones were conducted with 1,161 adults. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3.8 percentage points.

  • Suggested Citation: AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. (January 2022). “With omicron, Americans are taking more personal precautions .” [apnorc.org/projects/with-omicron-americans-are-taking-more-precautions]

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