Expectations have never been higher

Confidence in the future of the economy soars to the highest point in 19 years, but is the nation approaching a “vaccine wall?”

The author(s)

  • Catherine Morris Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs
  • Sarah Feldman Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs
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April 14, 2021 – Americans are confident that a return to full economic strength is just around the corner, but the signals suggest that progress on vaccinations may begin to get bumpier.

Stories this week:

Expectations have never been higher

Americans are optimistic that tomorrow will be better than today, with measures of future outlook around personal finances, the economy and employment rising to the highest point in 19 years in the most recent wave of the Ipsos-Forbes Advisor Consumer Tracker.

Consumer confidence overall also rose a beat last week, surpassing levels last seen just before the March 2020 lockdowns. Despite these optimistic indicators, high Expectations suggest that Americans believe that there is still plenty of room for the economy to rebound, underscoring that the nation is still in recovery mode after the past year’s upheaval.

Most and least hopeful

Partisanship is the leading indicator of how optimistic or pessimistic Americans are about their future economic outlook. As a more abstract measure of future economic well-being, it has proven to be particularly susceptible to major external events – namely, the 2020 election.

Republicans started out the pandemic more confident than any other demographic that the economy would rebound sometime in the next six months. In direct contrast, Democrats were the least hopeful.  But from April 2020 to March 2021, a dramatic shift occurred. Expectations among Democrats rose 19.8 points and fell 10 points among Republicans. This reversal in outlook began in November 2020 and has only become more pronounced since President Biden’s inauguration.

Demographic groups that generally trend towards one party follow a similar pattern, showing new optimism if they tend to lean Democratic, and greater pessimism if they typically lean Republican.

Who is in the vaccine wall?

As the vaccination rollout reaches new heights, recent polling from the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index finds that about one in five U.S. adults is not at all interested in getting the COVID-19 vaccine, posing potential problems for reaching herd immunity.

Where people get their news plays an outsized role in how they feel about getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Among people whose primary news source was not listed in the poll, one in two do not want to get the vaccine at all. Additionally, 38% of people turning to conservative online news outlets for their main news are not at all likely to get the COVID-19 vaccine as well. On the other hand, only 9% of local newsreaders are not at all likely to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

While supply chain and distribution problems plagued the first part of the vaccine rollout, public health campaigns promise to be the next uphill battle in the fight to get the nation vaccinated.

Pockets of vaccine resistance

Geography plays a part in vaccine skepticism too. While vaccine hesitancy has held steady at about one in five Americans for months, an analysis of Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index data across Census divisions shows that vaccine rejection is much higher in some parts of the country than others.

The Northeast and Pacific West are most open to getting the vaccine, while the greatest skepticism resides in the rural South and heartland.

The author(s)

  • Catherine Morris Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs
  • Sarah Feldman Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs

Society