CBS News poll: U.S. efforts on COVID, economy are better, not yet good

The times, they are uncertain. People think the fight against COVID has improved dramatically in recent weeks, up double-digits, but still not good, say Americans who've now been through a few up-and-down waves. With a majority still concerned about the virus, it's not over for them, as people voice both patience with restrictions and some frustration from dealing with it all.

For parents, in particular, there's still majority support for masking in schools. At the same time, many of them say the pandemic has taken a toll on their kids' emotional health and education.

The economy is still seen as struggling, but it's come off its January lows, partly because of the different ways people judge it. Some are using national indicators, many of which have been strong, but many more say they're rating the economy by the prices they are paying — for food and services, and at the pump. And these people are especially likely to call the economy bad and to say it's getting worse.

It adds up to this: people rate things in the country better than they did in January, but they still don't call them good. They express roughly the same mix of being hopeful and scared about the year ahead as they did a year ago. It's a public that's been through a lot and may, understandably, be waiting to see where things are headed next.

As coronavirus cases come down in many places, more Americans say efforts against the outbreak are going well, but it's still a mixed report. Today 47% say things are going well, up from 36% a few weeks ago. Fewer people now than a year ago report that their own mental health is worse as a result of the pandemic.

Overall, there's still more patience than frustration about preventative measures like masks and restrictions – but there's plenty of both, neither fully dominates the public mind.

And, it's important to note we continue to see stark differences in attitudes and approach between the vaccinated and unvaccinated.

That act of getting vaccinated — and now getting a booster — is not seen as a panacea. The fully vaccinated today are mostly supportive of keeping mask requirements, mostly patient about restrictions, and still concerned about catching the virus. The remaining unvaccinated say there shouldn't be mask requirements, at the same time as they say efforts against the outbreak are going badly. They're just not that concerned about getting the virus, not encouraged by the effectiveness of measures to confront COVID, and they're frustrated by them.

Nearly half of parents report feeling exhausted or frustrated by managing the pandemic and kids, but a majority of parents still support masks in schools.

A majority who specifically feel exhausted still back mask mandates. Perhaps this should not be surprising; people can and do hold multiple feelings at once, and many parents still favor some protective measures even though it has not been easy dealing with it all.

Many parents say their children's mental health and educational development have gotten worse as a result of the pandemic.

For parents who feel negatively about things with kids and the pandemic, there's a lot of blame to go around. Political leaders, information, and just the nature of the virus itself are all blamed to some extent. And there's no shortage of frustration and exhaustion.

And if a vaccine does become available for kids under five — which now may be further off, based on recent reports — parents of those kids were split evenly among yes, no and maybe on whether they'd get the vaccine for them.

The economy

On one hand, things aren't quite as bad as last month in Americans' collective judgment about the economy. A lot depends on what exactly people are thinking of when they evaluate "the economy." For most, that's the cost of food or gas. (No doubt a more immediate concern at least for now, especially with unemployment low.) They're especially likely to call the economy bad.

Some of it, as it's been for many years now, is simply about who's in charge: Republicans are much more likely to call the economy bad than Democrats, just as the reverse was true in past Republican administrations. And here, seven in 10 Republicans who say the economy is bad say they're thinking about President Biden when rating it, among other things.

So, the general measure of how things are going in America is up seven points in a month, but still net negative, as it's been pretty low.

Mr. Biden's approval rating remains at 44%, unchanged from last month, perhaps reflecting this mixture of measures and sentiments. On the foreign policy matter facing him most urgently he had mixed ratings on his approach to Russia, too, heading into the weekend.

And as they look ahead, among a few emotions we've tracked over the year, there's still the same mix of hopefulness and fear there was a year ago. The hopeful thinking relatively more about the country's prospects on the virus, though not everyone could specify. Those who look ahead and say they're scared — this includes a lot of Republicans — are more bothered about politics and leadership along with that economy.

This CBS News/YouGov survey was conducted with a nationally representative sample of 2,578 U.S. adult residents interviewed between February 8-11, 2022. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the U.S. Census American Community Survey and Current Population Survey, as well as to 2020 presidential vote. The margin of error is ±2.2 points.


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CBS News poll: U.S. efforts on pandemic, economy are better, but not yet good