Over the past two weeks, the number of people who believe the worst of the pandemic is behind us has continued to surge. This past weekend, 48% held that view while just 24% believe the worst is yet to come.
It appears that Democrats are catching up to Republicans in terms of recognizing that the worst is behind us. Until recently, Democrats were relatively evenly divided. Now, by a 47% to 27% margin, those in President Joe Biden’s party believe the worst is behind us. Republicans hold that belief by a 58% to 20% margin.
I’ve been tracking these attitudes for more than a year and the impact of the vaccines on perceptions on the pandemic is clear to see. Following the election last fall, confidence fell sharply. In late November, 68% believed that the worst was still to come. By late January, after the vaccines became a reality, that number fell to 40%.
Then, in mid-February, for the first time ever, a plurality of voters believed that the worst was behind us. Now that the vast majority of Americans have had the chance to be vaccinated, confidence has surged to new highs.
With this in mind, it seemed time to explore these general perceptions a bit more closely. I decided to ask a couple of follow-up questions to get a more nuanced understanding.
It turns out that there are equal and opposite extreme positions held by fringe minorities of the population.
- Five percent (5%) of voters believe that the pandemic will never end while another 5% believe it was a hoax.
- Moving in from the extremes, 10% believe the pandemic will last several more years and 8% believe it is already over.
- In between is the middle ground, or mainstream, view. Thirty-four percent (34%) think the pandemic is still a concern, but the end is in sight. Another 8% say we’re making progress, but still have a long way to go.
The numbers also show an ongoing divide along racial and ethnic lines.
- Forty-six percent (46%) of white voters hold the middle ground positions (concerned, but …). Just 12% believe it will last several years or never end.
- Among Black voters, 26% believe it will last several years or never end. Only 24% hold middle ground perceptions.
The numbers for those the Census Bureau would define as Hispanic are in the middle between the responses given by white and Black voters. But, as I have noted in recent columns, many voters the Census Bureau defines as Hispanic do not define themselves that way.
When it comes to perceptions of the pandemic, there is a significant gap between those distinct groups of Hispanic voters. Among those the Census Bureau defines as Hispanic and who define themselves that way, 32% believe the worst is behind us. However, among those the Census Bureau defines as Hispanic but see themselves as white or American, 51% hold that optimistic view.
Regardless of the various demographic differences, though, it is clear that the broad trends of public opinion have concluded that the end of the pandemic is in sight.
Scott Rasmussen is an American political analyst and digital media entrepreneur. He is the author of “The Sun is Still Rising: Politics Has Failed But America Will Not.”