Americans hope that 2022 will be better

Although most Americans don’t think 2021 was great, more hold out hope that 2022 will be better.

The author(s)
  • Sarah Feldman Editorial Director, US, Public Affairs
  • Catherine Morris Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs
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December 23- Although most Americans don’t think 2021 was great, more hold out hope that 2022 will be better. The past year was one of many ups and downs, as hope that COVID was in abeyance dissipated with the emergence of the Delta and omicron variants.

COVID remains one of the most prominent distinguishing features of everyday life, with most people focused on coping with the pandemic, a sentiment that spiked with every new variant.

Some of the more dramatic divides in perspective exist among the vaccinated and unvaccinated. Many of the unvaccinated believe that it is already here or just around the corner, while the vaccinated are once again settling into a longer wait.

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Americans have higher hopes for 2022

Americans are mostly ambivalent about how they and they country fared in 2021 but hold out hope for improvement in 2022. In early December, Ipsos surveyed Americans on how they feel they, their family, community, state, country and job fared in 2021 and will do in 2022 on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the worst and 10 the best. This was before the omicron variant led to a surge in new cases, which may have since altered people’s perspectives.

Just a small minority say that 2021 was great on multiple levels – around one in three say their job went very in well in 2021, and around one in four say that they and their immediate family did great too. But people’s perspectives dim when considering 2021’s impact on their community, state and country.

Nevertheless, these number represent an uptick from 2020 on all measures. There is no comparable data available for how people felt about their jobs in 2020.

Looking ahead to 2022, Americans outlook for the country’s prospects remains the same – about one in ten foresee a great year ahead. On a more optimistic note, more believe that things will go well in 2022 on an individual level.

For many Americans, this year was a rollercoaster of emotions

As the year comes to a close, looking back, 2021 was a year of ups and downs for most Americans as they continued to try and figure out how to cope with the uncertainty and changes of the pandemic, analysis of the Ipsos Pandemic Adaption Continuum (IPAC) finds.

For most of the year, Americans remained in this coping mindset, though for different reasons. Before the vaccines were released, most Americans were still coping as the pandemic spread. Once the vaccines became widely available, Americans’ sentiment improved quickly, moving away from the bunkered down, coping mentality. But, following the Delta surge and the arrival of the Omicron variant, Americans once again return to this coping mindset as they try to navigate another twist and turn in the pandemic.

The IPAC is a framework for assessing how consumers adapt to circumstances surrounding the pandemic. It’s an index built from several psychological theories. Through a series of questions in the Ipsos Consumer Tracker, people get grouped into ‘coping’ or ‘improving’ categories based on how they respond to assessments of their sense of uncertainty, preparation for the future, and any adjustments they are making to their life.

The vaccinated are now less confident than they were earlier in the year that their pre-COVID lives will return soon

For the first half of 2021, many vaccinated people were confident that pre-COVID life would return within the next year (if it hadn’t done so already), but that changed quickly in the second half of the year, following the Delta surge.

In June, nearly all vaccinated people (87%) felt that pre-COVID life was within reach. By early October, that number dropped to 58%. With the arrival of Omicron, only half (51%) of vaccinated people now feel that pre-COVID life has already returned to a pre-COVID normal or will do so in the next year.

The curve for expectations among the unvaccinated looks very different. All in all, three in five unvaccinated people now feel that pre-COVID life has already returned to normal or will do so in the next year. Last January, the same share of unvaccinated Americans felt the same. This hope for the future peaked among the unvaccinated (78%) in June, but it’s since diminished over the fall.

The remaining unvaccinated are not worried about COVID

While vaccinated Americans are roughly just as concerned about the virus as they were at the beginning of the year, far fewer unvaccinated Americans share that same fear of COVID-19.

This, in large part, is due to who got the vaccine throughout the year and who remains unvaccinated. As vaccinations reached a critical mass in the late spring, fewer unvaccinated people reported being concerned about COVID. In other words, earlier in the year, people who were worried about COVID got the vaccine. Now, for many unvaccinated people at this point in the pandemic, COVID is not a concern.

People began visiting friends and family this year, vaccinated or not

By the spring of 2021, most people began visiting their friends and family, whether or not they received the COVID-19 vaccine.

During a massive surge in cases last January, about two in five Americans saw friends and family in the past week. Throughout the spring and summer, regardless of caseloads or the movements of the pandemic, very few people stopped seeing friends or family.

Now, three in five people report seeing friends or family in the past week, regardless of vaccine status. Despite similar levels of social activity, the risk of contracting COVID and getting very sick when seeing friends and family is still very high for the unvaccinated; that threat is significantly lesser for vaccinated people.

And, as the winter holidays come into focus, roughly three in four Americans plan to see family or friends outside of the household. Taken together, perhaps, even with the fast-spreading Omicron variant, people are unwilling to give up time with loved ones after nearly two years of the pandemic.

Economic confidence has held steadiest for more affluent Americans

Consumer confidence declined most significantly among people earning less than $100,000 from the 2021 mid-summer peak in consumer to now, while holding steadier among those making more than $100,000. This is a continuation of the inequitable financial impact of COVID.

Economic confidence rose across all income groups in the first part of the year as Americans grew more hopeful that the end of the pandemic was in sight, until rising inflation and new coronavirus variants put a damper on rising economic confidence.

The author(s)
  • Sarah Feldman Editorial Director, US, Public Affairs
  • Catherine Morris Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs