Americans have a sunnier outlook heading into the summer

May 18 — Some Americans report improving mental health as fears about returning to “normal” pre-COVID life recede. Meanwhile, Americans are feeling more secure about their purchasing power.

Stories this week:

Mental health improves as fears about COVID recede

Mental health shows signs of improving for some as Americans grow less fearful about returning to their pre-COVID lives. More Americans say their mental health gotten a little or a lot better over the past week, as opposed to having deteriorated further, for the first time since the pandemic began.

Last week, 16% of Americans said that they felt better about their mental health this week compared to last, up from 7% at the start of the pandemic, according to Axios-Ipsos tracking data. The number who said their mental health was getting worse on a weekly basis changed even more, falling from one in three in April 2020 to just one in ten in May 2021.

At the same time, the percent who say that they believe that returning to the normal, pre-COVID lives poses a large or moderate risk dropped by 11 points, falling below 50% for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

Talking about vaccine status

Whether people are talking about the COVID-19 vaccine is driven by people’s concern about the virus in the first place. Among those worried about the virus, roughly three in four asked their family and close friends about their vaccine status, tracking from the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index finds.

Moving outside of people’s immediate circle made them more hesitant to ask about other’s vaccination status. Only half of those concerned about COVID-19 asked people outside their close circle about their vaccine status. On the flip side of the conversation, most people (66%) report being asked about whether they were vaccinated. Though, there are some places that conversation still isn’t happening, namely between employees and employers.

As more of the country gets vaccinated, the social dynamics and people’s personal feelings of safety and privacy are sensitive subjects.

Americans divided on need for proof of vaccination to go out

Requiring proof of vaccination for out-of-home activities divides urban and rural residents, Axios/Ipsos polling finds.

In particular, needing proof of vaccination to return to work divides urban and rural working people the most, with a 24-point gap between the two on this question. Other activities, like dining indoors at a restaurant, and shopping are other notable points of contention.

Outside of the physical differences in geography that drive public opinion here, partisanship also explains some of the discrepancies between urban residents, who tend to lean toward the Democratic party, and rural residents, who tend to support Republicans.

Feeling stuck about the post-pandemic future makes Americans want to shop

People who are stuck about what to do next when planning for the post-COVID future are more likely to expect to make more purchases than those who have no uncertainty about what the post-COVID future holds for them, Ipsos COVID Consumer Tracker analysis uncovers.

Those who are uncertain are three times as likely to expect to replace a significant portion of their wardrobe and are about twice as likely to anticipate buying new furniture and outdoor gear. Smaller purchases, like buying new clothing items, lessens the gap between Americans who are certain about the post-COVID world and those who are stuck on what that may look like.

Belief in a quick rebound promotes greater purchasing confidence

Americans who believe that the economy will bounce back quickly whenever COVID restrictions are lifted feel significantly more secure about making non-major household purchases. Those who think the recovery will be slower have significantly lower confidence in their ability to afford every day, household items.

Confidence in a quick rebound is currently the majority view, but how most Americans answer this question has fluctuated along with the rise and fall in COVID cases since the start of the pandemic. So while those who believe that there will be a quick recovery were always more confident about their purchasing power, they have only been consistently in the majority since January 2021.




Presenting original analysis of public opinion research on politics and society from the world’s third-largest market research firm, with a particular focus on the 2020 United States elections. For more information, visit:

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Sarah Feldman

Sarah Feldman

Data journalist @ipsos writing about American public opinion.

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