The signs are increasing that the American public is becoming more and more comfortable with the idea of returning to normal activities, like eating at restaurants, going shopping, going on vacations, and attending movies at the theater.
According to a Morning Consult tracking poll, Americans' comfort with engaging in many activities that have been taboo in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic took a huge jump in February, to levels that have not been seen since the pandemic began. The poll showed that 51% of Americans would feel comfortable right now eating a meal at a restaurant or cafe, 46% would feel comfortable going shopping at a mall, 43% would feel comfortable going on a vacation, and 32% would feel comfortable going to see a movie at a theater.
Those numbers represent a sharp jump from Morning Consult's tracking poll in January, when only 37% said they would feel comfortable eating a meal in a restaurant, 32% said they would feel comfortable going shopping at a mall, 29% said they would feel comfortable going on vacation, and 21% said they would feel comfortable going to see a movie at a theater.
These numbers — which likely reflect the declining number of positive cases across the country and the continued distribution of vaccines — all represent record highs since Morning Consult began tracking the public's attitude about these activities in May 2020.
Furthermore, respondents indicated overwhelmingly that they would feel comfortable engaging in these activities in six months' time, indicating a widespread belief that greater availability of the various coronavirus vaccines will allow society to return to normal activities. At least 69% of respondents indicated that they would feel comfortable dining in a restaurant in six months' time, for example.
The numbers may have significant implications for policymakers who will be faced with decisions about when and how to allow normal, pre-pandemic activity to resume over the coming months. Texas and Mississippi have already announced an imminent end to the coronavirus restrictions, and other states, like Arizona, have taken aggressive steps to ensure that at least some activity will resume right away, much to the chagrin of the Biden administration, which accused the governments of those states of engaging in "Neanderthal thinking."
But while Democrats have been largely buttressed by the public's general uneasiness with engaging in activities that have been prohibited by lockdowns, these polls indicate potential trouble on the horizon as the public grows more and more comfortable with activities that many Democrats believe should continue to be prohibited. It further suggests that suggestions from Dr. Anthony Fauci and others that these activities should not be resumed even by vaccinated people may be met with widespread resistance and noncompliance by the public.