Survey: Support Shifts for Some, but Not All, COVID Mandates

Concerns about illness go down as reported infections go up

Support for COVID-19 face-mask and social distancing guidelines has dropped from half of the public to just a third in the past two months as a large majority of Americans endorse the CDC relaxing its recommendations. At the same time, a little under half of the public backs workplace vaccine mandates, a number that has not moved since January. The latest Monmouth University Poll also finds waning concern about family members becoming ill from the virus at the same time as more people report testing positive for COVID sometime during the pandemic.

More than 3 in 4 Americans (77%) endorse the C.D.C. relaxing its face mask and social distancing recommendations in areas with low COVID rates. Just 34% of the public supports instituting or reinstituting face mask and social distancing guidelines in their state at the current time, which is down significantly from 52% in January. At the same time, support for requiring people to show proof of vaccination in order to work in an office or around people has held steady – 44% now and 43% in January. A majority of Democrats continue to back vaccine (69%) and mask (60%) mandates, while at the same time saying they support the C.D.C. relaxing its COVID guidance (67%).

Regardless of where they stand now, half of the American public (50%) would prefer to see the government continue to adjust COVID guidelines and mandates in response to different variants as they arise. Another 14% want to settle on a consistent set of protocols from this point forward and 34% want to do away with all COVID regulations and mandates. Most Democrats want to maintain flexibility (82%) while most Republicans want to do away with all COVID regulations (67%).

Overall, 73% of Americans agree with the sentiment that “it’s time we accept that COVID is here to stay and we just need to get on with our lives” – which is similar to 70% who felt this way in January. Within this group who want to move on, identical numbers actually prefer adjusting COVID guidelines in response to new variants (42%) as say they want no regulations at all (42%). Another 14% of those who say it is time to get on with life want to choose a consistent set of guidelines.

“We asked the same question about accepting COVID is here to stay two months ago and got a similarly high number who want to get on with life. Our working hypothesis was that many people who support mandates simply wanted consistency in the guidelines. This new data suggests that is not necessarily the case. For some Americans, getting on with life means constantly being on guard and ready to reinstitute restrictions as new situations emerge,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

The number of people who are very concerned about a family member becoming seriously ill from the virus (23%) has dropped to its lowest point since last June (also 23%). This marks a 15-point decrease over the past two months (38% in January). The biggest drop in this concern has occurred among Democrats (30% now compared with 61% two months ago). At the same time, 38% of American adults report having tested positive for COVID (up from 27% in January). Another 14% say they were diagnosed without a test or believe they had the disease at some point during the pandemic.

Vaccine uptake, particularly getting a booster shot, has stalled and the poll finds the rate is unlikely to improve by much. Currently, just under half (48%) of adults report having received a COVID booster dose while one-third (33%) say they are not at all likely to get it.

Ratings for how different groups in the country have been handling the pandemic have ticked up over the past two months, including for President Joe Biden (49% good job, up from 43% in January), federal health agencies (53%, up from 46%), state governors (59%, up from 54%), and the American public (35%, up from 29%).

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from March 10 to 14, 2022 with 809 adults in the United States. The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.

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