Most Americans have heard of the Omicron variant, few are very familiar

New Axios-Ipsos poll finds that two in three support mask requirements and travel bans to limit the spread of the new variant

The author(s)

  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Neil Lloyd Senior Research Analyst, Public Affairs
  • James Diamond Senior Research Manager, Public Affairs
  • Mallory Newall Vice President, US, Public Affairs
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Washington, DC, December 7, 2021

According to a new Axios-Ipsos poll, a large majority of Americans have heard of the new Omicron coronavirus variant, but about half say they know almost nothing about it. Few Americans intend to cancel their holiday travel plans due to the new variant. While most Americans do not plan to stop socializing, three in five say they are likely to go back to or continue wearing a mask. To limit the spread of the Omicron variant, most Americans support local mask requirements and restricting travel. Support for mask requirements differs significantly between Democrats and Republicans, however, both are largely supportive of issuing a travel ban.

Detailed findings:

1. Most Americans have heard of the Omicron coronavirus variant, but almost half know little or nothing about it.

  • The vast majority (94%) of Americans have at least heard of the Omicron variant, though 47% say they have heard of it, but know almost nothing about it.
  • Overall, concern among those who have heard of the new variant is high, with 71% saying they are at least somewhat concerned about it, but only about a third (37%) say they are very or extremely concerned.
    • This closely resembles the share of Americans concerned about COVID-19 at large according to Wave 58 of the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus tracker, fielded November 19-22, 2021 (69% at least somewhat concerned; 37% extremely/very concerned).
  • Democrats express the most concern, with 60% saying they are very or extremely concerned about the new variant, compared to just 18% of Republicans and 34% of independents who say the same.

2. Americans still plan to go through with their holiday plans, but will go back to or continue wearing masks.

  • Just 23% of Americans say they are likely to cancel holiday travel plans in light of news about the Omicron variant, while half (52%) say they don’t intend to cancel travel plans.
  • People don’t plan to stop socializing either, with just 28% saying they are likely to stop gathering with others outside their household and 33% saying they will stop dinning at indoor restaurants.
  • Instead, Americans plan to protect themselves from the virus by masking up, with 62% saying they are likely to do so when indoors and in public. However, likelihood to wear a mask differs dramatically by partisanship with 82% of Democrats reporting they are likely to wear a mask, compared to 67% of independents and 38% of Republicans.

3. To limit the spread of the Omicron variant, Americans support local mask mandates and travel bans.

  • About two thirds support mask requirements imposed by local businesses (69%) and local government (65%), as well as forbidding people traveling from other countries from entering the U.S. (67%).
  • Mask requirements imposed by local businesses (94%) and local government (93%) receive near total support from Democrats, while over half of Republicans oppose mask requirements from both (56% and 65%, respectively).
  • However, support for issuing a travel ban is high on both sides of the political aisle (72% Democrats, 66% Republicans).
    • Support for a travel ban drops if it would prevent U.S. citizens from entering the country (45% overall, 36% Republicans, 54% Democrats).
  • Overall, Americans are not supportive of lockdowns as a way of controlling the spread of the Omicron variant – just 35% support this and 63% oppose it. About half (55%) of Democrats support temporary lockdowns compared to just 10% of Republicans and a third (36%) of independents.

About the Study

This Axios/Ipsos Omicron coronavirus variant poll was conducted December 3rd to December 6th, 2021 by Ipsos using our KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,021 general population adults age 18 or older.

The survey was conducted using KnowledgePanel, the largest and most well-established online probability-based panel that is representative of the adult US population. Our recruitment process employs a scientifically developed addressed-based sampling methodology using the latest Delivery Sequence File of the USPS – a database with full coverage of all delivery points in the US. Households invited to join the panel are randomly selected from all available households in the U.S. Persons in the sampled households are invited to join and participate in the panel. Those selected who do not already have internet access are provided a tablet and internet connection at no cost to the panel member. Those who join the panel and who are selected to participate in a survey are sent a unique password-protected log-in used to complete surveys online. As a result of our recruitment and sampling methodologies, samples from KnowledgePanel cover all households regardless of their phone or internet status and findings can be reported with a margin of sampling error and projected to the general population.

The study was conducted in English. The data were weighted to adjust for gender by age, race, education, Census region, metropolitan status, and household income. The demographic weighting benchmarks are from the 2019 March supplement of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS). The weighting categories were as follows:

  • Gender (Male/Female) by Age (18–29, 30–44, 45–59, and 60+)
  • Race/Hispanic Ethnicity (White/Non-Hispanic, Black/Non-Hispanic, Other or 2+ Races/Non-Hispanic, Hispanic)
  • Education (Less than High School, High School graduate, Some College, Bachelor and beyond)
  • Census Region (Northeast, Midwest, South, West)
  • Metropolitan status (Metro, non-Metro)
  • Household Income (Under $25,000, $25,000-$49,999, $50,000-$74,999, $75,000-$99,999, $100,000-$149,999, $150,000+)

The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample of adults. The margin of sampling error takes into account the design effect, which was 1.25. The margin of sampling error is higher and varies for results based on sub-samples. In our reporting of the findings, percentage points are rounded off to the nearest whole number. As a result, percentages in a given table column may total slightly higher or lower than 100%. In questions that permit multiple responses, columns may total substantially more than 100%, depending on the number of different responses offered by each respondent.

For more information on this news release, please contact:

Chris Jackson
Senior Vice President, U.S., Public Affairs
Ipsos
+1 202 420 2025
[email protected]

Kate Silverstein
Media Relations Specialist, U.S., Public Affairs
Ipsos
+1 718 755-8829
[email protected]

About Ipsos

Ipsos is the world’s third largest Insights and Analytics company, present in 90 markets and employing more than 18,000 people.

Our passionately curious research professionals, analysts and scientists have built unique multi-specialist capabilities that provide true understanding and powerful insights into the actions, opinions and motivations of citizens, consumers, patients, customers or employees. We serve more than 5000 clients across the world with 75 business solutions.

Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos is listed on the Euronext Paris since July 1st, 1999. The company is part of the SBF 120 and the Mid-60 index and is eligible for the Deferred Settlement Service (SRD).

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The author(s)

  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Neil Lloyd Senior Research Analyst, Public Affairs
  • James Diamond Senior Research Manager, Public Affairs
  • Mallory Newall Vice President, US, Public Affairs

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