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62% in U.S. Say Lives Not Yet Back to Pre-COVID Normalcy

62% in U.S. Say Lives Not Yet Back to Pre-COVID Normalcy

Story Highlights

  • Six in 10 Americans say their life right now is "not yet back to normal"
  • 67% of Republicans, 21% of Democrats say life is at least somewhat normal
  • 70% in U.S. say the pandemic has disrupted their life a great deal/fair amount

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As COVID-19 cases were surging again across the U.S. last month, more than six in 10 Americans said their lives had not returned to pre-pandemic normalcy. Overall, 62% of Americans surveyed Oct. 19-Nov. 1 said their life right now is "not yet back to normal," while 34% said theirs is "somewhat back to normal" and 3% said "completely" so.

Among a host of key demographic subgroups, Republicans are the most likely to say their lives have somewhat (59%) or completely (8%) gotten back to what they were before COVID-19. The combined 67% of Republicans feeling like life is back to normal is more than three times the rate among Democrats (21%) and more than double that among independents (32%).

Most Americans Have Yet to Return to Pre-Pandemic Normalcy
Thinking about your life before the start of the coronavirus, would you say your life right now is completely back to normal, somewhat back to normal but not completely normal, or not yet back to normal?
U.S. adults Republicans Independents Democrats
% % % %
Completely back to normal 3 8 2 1
Somewhat back to normal but not completely 34 59 30 20
Not yet back to normal 62 33 68 79
GALLUP PANEL, Oct. 19-Nov. 1, 2020

Indeed, Gallup's probability-based panel survey tracking Americans' attitudes and behaviors related to the coronavirus situation has found discrepancies in partisans' practices during the pandemic, which may explain why more Republicans say their lives have returned to normal.

The latest data find 48% of Democrats, 41% of independents and 20% of Republicans saying they have isolated themselves from people outside their household -- either "completely" or "mostly" -- in the past 24 hours. At the same time, 50% of Republicans say they have made little or no attempt to isolate themselves, compared with 23% of Democrats and 38% of independents who say the same.

Partisans Differ in Their Contact With Non-Household Members
Next, thinking about everything you've done in the past 24 hours, which of the following comes closest to describing your in-person contact with people outside your household?
Republicans Independents Democrats
% % %
Completely isolated 3 7 13
Mostly isolated 17 34 35
Partially isolated 29 21 30
Isolated a little 18 19 16
Made no attempt to isolate 32 19 7
GALLUP PANEL, Oct. 19-Nov 1, 2020

Democrats are twice as likely as Republicans to say they "always" practiced social distancing the previous day (53% vs. 26%, respectively). Fully one-quarter of Republicans say they "rarely" or "never" did so.

Differences in Partisans' Social Distancing Practices
Over the past 24 hours, how often have you been practicing social distancing?
Republicans Independents Democrats
% % %
Always 26 36 53
Very often 26 35 35
Sometimes 23 14 10
Rarely 11 7 1
Never 14 7 1
GALLUP PANEL, Oct. 19-Nov. 1, 2020

Similarly, 73% of Republicans think the better advice for people who do not have symptoms of the coronavirus and are otherwise healthy is to lead their normal lives as much as possible. However, majorities of Democrats (93%) and independents (60%) believe it is better to stay home as much as possible to avoid contracting or spreading the coronavirus.

Americans' Activities Differ Based on Degree of Normalcy They Feel

The degree of normalcy Americans feel they have in their life is directly linked to the daily activities they are participating in. That is, those who say their lives are at least somewhat back to normal are more likely than those who say their lives are not yet back to normal to have visited a grocery store, their workplace, someone else's home, their place of worship and, to a lesser extent, the gym in the past 24 hours. Those who feel life has returned to some normalcy are also twice as likely as those who do not to say they have dined at a restaurant within the past day.

Americans' Participation in Activities Based on Degree of Normalcy They Feel
Percentage who say they have visited the following places in the past 24 hours
Completely/Somewhat back to normal Not yet back to normal
% %
Grocery store 64 47
Place of work 44 32
Restaurant (dined in) 27 13
Someone else's home 26 18
Place of worship 21 5
Gym 8 4
GALLUP PANEL, Oct. 19-Nov. 1, 2020

While it is clear that there are differences between these two groups, it is not possible to tell how close the current readings are to actual pre-COVID behaviors.

Americans' Views of How Much COVID-19 Has Disrupted Their Lives Are Stable

Americans' assessment of their own return to normal, pre-pandemic life is in line with their evaluation of how much the coronavirus situation has affected their life. In all, seven in 10 U.S. adults say it has disrupted their life "a great deal" (24%) or "a fair amount" (46%). Readings on this measure have been largely stable since April 20 after hitting highs between 74% and 81% earlier in the pandemic.

Line graph. Percentages of Americans who say their own life has been affected or disrupted a great deal or a fair amount by the coronavirus situation since March 16. The latest 70% reading is similar to readings since April.

Just as Republicans are more likely than Democrats and independents to say their life is at least somewhat back to normal, so too are they more likely to say the coronavirus situation has not significantly disrupted their life. Fifty-one percent of Republicans, 81% of Democrats and 74% of independents say the pandemic has affected their life at least a fair amount.

Bottom Line

New coronavirus cases are trending sharply upward in the U.S., and a majority of Americans continue to say the situation is disrupting their lives. Few U.S. adults say life has completely returned to normal -- yet there are sizable differences across key subgroups in those experiencing a partial return to normalcy. Partisanship remains the most significant driver of the public's perceptions of the disease and their behaviors in response to it.

Learn more about how the Gallup Panel works.

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