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Pandemic Outlook Recovers as U.S. Leaders' Messaging Falters

Pandemic Outlook Recovers as U.S. Leaders' Messaging Falters

Story Highlights

  • 65% say COVID-19 situation is getting better, up from 41% in July
  • 44% think pandemic is over, highest by 10 percentage points
  • 30% to 38% rate governor, CDC, Biden highly for COVID-19 communication

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- About two-thirds of Americans believe the COVID-19 situation in the U.S. is getting better, and 44% -- a new high -- now say the pandemic is over. Both readings are up by double digits since July when optimism was waning amid rising cases.

With weekly COVID-19 cases now lower than in July, the 65% of U.S. adults who believe the pandemic is improving is up 24 percentage points and on par with readings in February and April. In addition, 24% of Americans say the situation is staying about the same and 11% think it is getting worse.


Gallup began measuring public perceptions of the coronavirus situation once per quarter this year after tracking it monthly in 2021 and weekly for much of 2020.

Though markedly improved, the current assessment, from an Oct. 11-19 survey, is not nearly as optimistic as it was in May and June 2021, when 84% and 89% of U.S. adults, respectively, said the situation was getting better. Impressions of the pandemic's trajectory have been closely linked to changes in infection rates.

Gallup has periodically measured Americans' views of whether the pandemic is over since June 2021. The latest update to Gallup's probability-based COVID-19 web panel tracking poll finds an 11-point increase on the measure.

The poll was conducted nearly a month after President Joe Biden declared in a Sept. 18 interview on "60 Minutes" that "the pandemic is over." His statement, which took health officials in his administration by surprise, may be at least partially responsible for the uptick in Americans' belief that the end of the pandemic has finally arrived.


Partisans' Pandemic Views Continue to Diverge, but All See Improvement

Americans in all party groups have become more likely to say the pandemic is over since July, including increases of 12 points among Republicans, 14 points among Democrats and 10 points among independents. However, Republicans are the only party with a majority saying the pandemic is over. Republicans are more than three times as likely as Democrats to say this, at 73% vs. 21%, while 48% of independents agree. Despite the fact that Biden has said he believes the pandemic is over, a majority of his party's faithful, 79%, do not concur.


There is bipartisan, majority-level agreement that the coronavirus situation is getting better, with 76% of Republicans and 61% of Democrats saying so. Independents also broadly agree that the situation is improving (62%). All three groups have roughly returned to the levels last seen in February and April after cases were down from the January surge in infections.


Ratings of U.S. Leaders' COVID-19 Communication at or Near Low Points

One in three U.S. adults think President Joe Biden has communicated a clear plan in response to COVID-19. This marks an eight-point decline from the last reading in late 2021 and is the lowest on record for Biden.

A similar 30% of Americans currently agree that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has communicated a clear plan, which is also an eight-point decline from the prior reading.

Thirty-eight percent of U.S. adults agree that their own state governor has conveyed a clear COVID-19 plan, down four points from 2021 and the lowest for the trend. Democratic governors (40%) earn slightly higher readings than their Republican counterparts (35%).

These data are based on responses to a five-point numerical scale measuring agreement that each entity has communicated a clear plan, with agreement signified by the percentage giving a 4 or 5 rating on the scale.


Americans have consistently been less likely to agree the CDC has communicated clearly compared with Biden and state governors. When he was president, Donald Trump's ratings were similar to the CDC ratings.

Democrats' ratings of the communication of all three have fallen more than Republicans' or independents' since last year. In late 2021, majorities of Democrats agreed that their state governor, Biden and the CDC had communicated a clear plan of action in response to COVID-19. Since then, Democrats' rating of Biden has fallen 15 points, to 59%, while the CDC rating declined 13 points to 47% and the governors' rating is down seven points to 45%.

Meanwhile, Republicans' ratings of the three entities were very low in 2021 and did not decline significantly in the latest poll. Readings for Biden and the CDC among independents declined slightly, both to 24%.

Still, Democrats rate each higher than Republicans and independents do.


Democrats' ratings of Biden's communication about COVID-19 are not closely related to their view of whether they think the pandemic is over. That is, Democrats who think the pandemic is over are only slightly more likely than those who do not to agree that the president has communicated a clear plan about COVID-19.

Bottom Line

Increasing numbers of Americans, buoyed by Republicans, think the pandemic is over, but Democrats largely disagree.

Americans' outlook for the COVID-19 pandemic is markedly improved from July, as about two-thirds, including majorities of Democrats and Republicans, now say the situation is improving.

Although the president's rating for communication of a clear plan in response to the pandemic has fallen among Democrats, his job approval rating among his party remains high, suggesting his pandemic messaging has little bearing on Democrats' overall view of the president. Still, with uptake of the new bivalent COVID-19 booster very slow in the U.S., a better communication plan from the president, governors and the CDC may be necessary.

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