There are fewer new cases of Covid-19 in the US in more than a year. The response from an increasing number of Americans has been to resume a lot of normal activities.
This step in the country’s return to “normal” seems to have been driven at least in part by vaccinated people being more willing to go out, but there is a real partisan divide. That is, fully vaccinated Republicans seem far more willing to resume normal activities than fully vaccinated Democrats.
Let’s take a look at a recent June Axios/Ipsos poll, which has been tracking Americans’ habits since the beginning of the pandemic.
Vaccinated people as a whole seem to be venturing out more than they used to. In the latest Ipsos poll, 45% indicated they were social distancing in the last week (i.e. staying home and avoiding others as much as possible). That’s down 60% last month.
Unvaccinated Americans saw a decline in social distancing, but it wasn’t at the same level as the vaccinated. Back in early May, 47% indicated they were socially distancing. It was 40% in the latest poll.
Zooming in on the vaccinated group in this poll, we see a massive partisan divide. Fully vaccinated Republicans at 31% are far less likely to say they’re social distancing than Democrats at 51%. This 20-point (51% - 31%) gap was closer to 30 points a month ago, but it’s still very much exists.
When people who have been fully vaccinated are going out, they’re also far less likely to use a mask than they used to. In early May, for example, 65% of fully vaccinated adults say they were always wearing a mask when they left their house. Just 46% of the unvaccinated told the pollster that they were always wearing a mask.
By the middle of May, the CDC adjusted its guidance to say vaccinated people did not need to wear a mask indoors or outdoors in most circumstances.
Vaccinated people, as a whole, seemed to hear the message. Earlier this month, just 37% of fully vaccinated adults said they were always wearing a mask when they were outside of their house.
We didn’t see the same drop among the unvaccinated over the same period. A nearly equal 36% of this group indicated in June they were always wearing a mask when they were outside of their house.
Still, the partisan gap is very present. Only 20% of fully vaccinated Republicans said they were always wearing a mask when they go out. Among Democrats, it was 48%. The size of this partisan difference (nearly 30 points) is pretty much the same as it was a month ago, even as the percentage of both fully vaccinated Democrats and Republicans always wearing masks dropped.
This gets at something that has been shown in other polling: Democrats tend to overestimate the threat of Covid-19, while Republicans tend to underestimate it.
When vaccinated people are going out, they seem to be likely to be doing minor and major activities.
A CBS News/YouGov poll released last weekend found that 75% of fully vaccinated adults indicated they were comfortable eating out at a bar or restaurant. This percentage was actually slightly higher than the 71% of all adults.
This is backed up by the latest Ipsos poll. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of fully vaccinated adults said they had, in fact, eaten out in the last week compared with just 58% of unvaccinated adults. This represents a 10-point increase for fully vaccinated people eating out compared to a month ago (53%), while the percentage of unvaccinated adults going out to eat is up just 1 point from 57% in early May.
But again, fully vaccinated Republicans are far more willing to venture out. Nearly three-quarters (74%) of fully vaccinated Republicans have eaten out in the last week, while a mere 54% of Democrats say they have. The partisan gap a month ago was basically the same.
As we look ahead to summer, we see a similar movement of vaccinated people planning to be out more. Fully vaccinated adults (40%) have been more likely to book summer plans in the last week than unvaccinated adults (25%) in the Ipsos June data. Last month, vaccinated and unvaccinated adults were split 31% to 31% on whether they had made summer plans in the last week.
Even in June, more fully vaccinated Republicans (45%) were more likely to make summer plans in the last week than fully vaccinated Democrats (34%).
Unfortunately, it seems that no matter what part of the pandemic we’re talking about (getting a vaccine, making plans, etc.) that partisanship, not just science, is a dominant factor.