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Americans are not as divided on COVID as the media suggests

How many Americans absolutely refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19? How many never wear masks in public? How many insist that children shouldn’t have to cover their faces at school? And how many would oppose the vaccine requirements if the hyperinfectious Delta variant reappears this winter?

Not as much as you might think.

It’s no secret that politics have infected the US pandemic response, turning public health issues into partisan flashpoints. In part because conservative experts and politicians have sowed unfounded doubts about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines and resisted policies to encourage or require inoculation, the full vaccination rate in the United States – 56% of the total population – now ranks 45th in the world, which makes us more vulnerable to the coronavirus than countries like Portugal (85%), Denmark (75%), Chile (75%) and Canada (73%).

Americans are not as divided on COVID as the media suggests

Patient receives COVID-19 vaccine booster at Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination clinic in Southfield, Michigan (Emily Elconin / Reuters)

Yet our collective focus on conflict – in media, in politics, and in real life – can now mask a deeper and more positive development. As Delta shrinks and the possibility of a less dangerous and disruptive coexistence with SARS-CoV-2 awaits on the other side of winter, a consensus begins to emerge on how to balance safety and normalcy. in the future.

Politically, the United States can be a 50-50 country. But he’s actually a lot less divided on how to deal with COVID-19.

Consider the numbers. According to the latest Yahoo News / YouGov poll of 1,640 American adults, conducted October 1-4, only 15% say they will not be vaccinated, up from 19% in August. Only 17% say they have “never” worn a mask during the previous week. And only 16% say, mistakenly, that face coverings are “not at all effective” in preventing the spread of the virus.

Even opinions on the masking and vaccination warrants are not as polarized as most hot political issues tend to be. Only a quarter of Americans (27%) say children shouldn’t be forced to wear masks at school; Meanwhile, a third (34%) are against requiring as many people as possible to get the shot if Delta rises again.

In contrast, nearly half of the electorate (47%) voted in 2020 for then-President Donald Trump – the figure whose supporters are generally associated with such views. Granted, Trump’s anti-mask and anti-vax fans tend to be the loudest, so they invariably get the most media attention. But millions of quieter Republicans don’t fit the mold. 40%, for example, always say that they hide themselves “always” or “from time to time”; one-third say they would support as many people as possible getting vaccinated. And the vast majority (70%) say they’ve been bitten or are open to it.

Americans are not as divided on COVID as the media suggests

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. (Paul Hennessy / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images)

The same goes for the voters of Joe Biden. Fox News and Republican politicians such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis like to portray Democrats as lockdown-loving germophobes, desperate to shut down schools and businesses again. But only 28% of Americans would be in favor of “lockdowns” in response to another Delta wave, while around 29% would be in favor of “shutting down inside food and dining.” Many more – 51% of the electorate – voted for Biden in 2020. The vast majority of Democrats have no desire to revert to the harsh mitigation measures of this terrible year.

So what do Americans want about COVID 19 months later? The press persists in describing us as “deeply polarized”On vaccination, but that is not really correct. While only 56 percent of the total United States population is fully vaccinated, this is in part because most children are not even eligible yet. The truth is, over 78 percent of American adults have received at least one injection. In comparison, only 48% of adults were vaccinated against influenza during the 2018-19 season. On top of that, an additional 15% of unvaccinated adults say they have yet to rule out a COVID vaccine. It’s hard to find so much agreement on anything else in American life.

Americans are also starting to agree on the way forward. When asked what policies they would support in their region in response to a new wave of COVID-19 cases due to Delta, 71% are in favor of reducing costs and increasing the availability of test kits in home – a policy with enormous potential in which the Biden administration has just invested $ 1 billion. More than two-thirds (67%) are in favor of encouraging as many people as possible to get vaccinated; more than half (55%) say vaccination should be compulsory for as many people as possible (and an additional 12% say they would not rule it out).

Americans are not as divided on COVID as the media suggests

A sign at a vaccination clinic in San Rafael, Calif. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

Meanwhile, more than 6 in 10 (61%) would support masking requirements in indoor public spaces, and the same number are already in favor of children masking themselves in class. Reflecting this sentiment, 64% of parents say their local schools now require face coverings, up nearly 10 points since August.

In theory, all of these numbers could be higher; public health experts would certainly wish they were. Many more Republicans could accept the scientific consensus on vaccines and mitigation measures, and GOP governors like Greg Abbott of Texas could let local jurisdictions decide whether they want to implement COVID mandates instead of banning them in statewide.

In reality, however, just because most Americans – including a significant number of Republicans – are pro-mask, pro-vaccine, and even pro-mandate does not mean that GOP politicians will deal with them. Instead, nearly all elected Republicans are much more focused on minimizing the virus and blocking mandates in order to win favor with their base.

But while this dynamic will continue to warp COVID policy, it has not completely warped public opinion about the pandemic – at least not to the extent that it has warped our policy as a whole. In the coming months, the virus will likely become endemic in the United States, and thanks to a combination of vaccine-induced immunity and infection, our COVID emergency will end.

Yet the pathogen will not go away. At this point, “living with the virus” won’t mean shutting down or shutting down businesses, but it could mean temporarily wearing a mask indoors during a local outbreak, or performing a rapid home antigen test before going. visit grandma or get a seasonal booster.

Fortunately, most Americans don’t seem to want to fight over this.


The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,640 American adults surveyed online from October 1-4, 2021. This sample was weighted by gender, age, race and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the United States Bureau of the Census, as well as the 2020 presidential vote (or not) and status of voter registration. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all American adults. The margin of error is approximately 2.7%.


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