In The Harris Poll Tracker (Week 92) fielded November 24th to 28th, 2021 among 2,416 U.S. adults, we look at the cautious concern around the Omicron variant, the reasons behind Americans getting their boosters, the response to the U.S. opening borders to fully vaccinated international travelers, the perception of a struggling Chicago nightlife, and the phenomenon of financial cheating between partners.

As a public service, our team has curated key insights to help leaders navigate COVID-19. Full survey results, tables, and weekly summaries can be accessed for free at The Harris Poll COVID-19 Portal. We will continue to actively field on a regular cadence to track the shifts in sentiment and behaviors as the news and guidelines evolve.

1. Making Our Way Through the Greek Alphabet: The Omicron Variant

While much is still unknown about Omicron’s severity and transmissibility, many Americans are already concerned about its potential impact – but aren’t panicking quite yet. Here’s what we found in this weekend’s polling:

  • A stark difference in awareness across vax status: While close to seven-in-ten (69%) of vaccinated people were familiar with Omicron, only (44%) of unvaccinated people were.
  • Of those familiar with the new variant, over three-quarters (78%) of Americans are concerned that it will evade existing vaccines, a fear among vaccinated (81%) and even unvaccinated (61%) Americans.
  • Despite concern over what Omicron may bring, overall fear of new variants remains unchanged from prior weeks this weekend at (73%), as does fear of a surge in new cases (70%), and those who believe the worst is behind us (56%).
  • Though uncertainty about what Omicron may bring remains, nearly nine in ten (87%) think it is likely that this new variant will lead to new surges in cases and restrictions (vaccinated: 88%, unvaccinated: 78%).
  • Cause for (cautious) optimism: Yesterday, Wall Street Journal reported BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said the new variant “could lead to more infections among vaccinated people but they will most likely remain protected from a severe course of illness.”

Takeaway: Americans are cautiously concerned about what may lie ahead in the next stage of the pandemic. In the wake of Delta, consumer confidence and activity ahead of the holiday season will likely remain stable until we know more about Omicron.

2. Come and Get Your Booster

In mid-November, the CDC expanded eligibility for all Americans to qualify to receive a booster shot. Nearly 9 in 10 vaccinated Americans tell us they have either received a booster (33%) or are likely to get one (54%). However, interest in boosters vary across demographics:

  • What does it mean to be “fully vaccinated?” Now that boosters are recommended for all, half (50%) consider vaccination plus booster to be “fully vaccinated.” However, only (38%) of Republicans and (38%) of unvaccinated Americans agree.
  • While over half (55%) of Americans believe everyone should receive a booster,(21%) of Americans – including (55%) of those unvaccinated – say they aren’t necessary for anyone at all. One-quarter (25%) of Americans say they are only necessary for those who are at-risk or interact with someone high-risk.
  • Why get boosted? Among those who already received their booster, (78%) say they got the extra shot to remain as protected as possible; (56%) because it is recommended by health experts; and (33%) due to concern that their initial antibodies are wearing off.
  • Nearly six-in-ten (58%) Americans support boosters to be included in any vaccination requirements for public activity. But age and political divides exist: (73%) of Democrats support vs only (42%) of Republicans; and (63%) of Boomers support vs (55%) of Gen Z.
  • Boomers and boosters: More than half (55%) of Boomers said they have received a booster – more than younger generations (Gen Z: 9%, Millennials: 20%, Gen X: 23%). 

Takeaway: While we wait and see what the Omicron variant means for vaccinated Americans, booster shots are the most effective way for people to protect themselves from severe illness and the ability to live as normally as possible during the pandemic.

3. Spoken Too Soon? Opening Borders to Vaxxed Foreign Travelers

In early November, the U.S. government began allowing non-U.S. travelers to enter the states if they were both fully vaccinated and tested negative for COVID. In order to see how Americans felt about the latest travel update, we partnered with the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to find out. Here is what we found:

  • Nearly half (49%) of Americans were at least somewhat aware of the latest travel orders.
  • Grab your vaccine passport: Three-quarters (76%) of Americans support requiring non-U.S. travellers to be fully vaccinated, with (84%) of Democrats and (71%) of Republicans in agreement. Even unvaccinated Americans (57%) support the latest policy update (vaccinated: 82%).
  • Even before Omicron was detected in South Africa, three-quarters (75%) were concerned that expanded international travel increases the risk of new variants entering the U.S.
  • Along with new variants, (74%) of Americans fear opening our borders will lead to increased COVID outbreaks.
  • Yet, even with the previous concerns, close to three-quarters (72%) of Americans believe we are entering a “new normal” where testing and vaccination requirements are routine, a notion held by both vaccinated (75%) and unvaccinated (61%) Americans.

Takeaway: The expanded travel policy holds potential to repair the bruised tourism sector that was hit significantly by the pandemic. However, the economic potential could be threatened if opening borders leads to higher case numbers and new variants causing chaos in the U.S.

4. The Economics of Entertainment: Crain’s-Harris Poll

More investment in nightlife could help Chicago attract residents and businesses. As leaders plan for future growth, they should examine opportunities to keep residents going out – and staying local, according to Harris Poll CEO Will Johnson’s latest op-ed in Crain’s. Here is what else he has to say:

  • A city that snoozes: More residents describe Chicago as “boring” (49%) compared to those who deem it “up and coming” (37%).
  • Chicago After Midnight: While (70%) of Chicagoans believe their city is attracting new businesses and residents, only (28%) think leisure and nightlife options contribute to this growth – lower than the (37%) viewed by other major metro residents about their cities.
  • What makes a “good” city? When rating their cities, (44%) of Americans factor in the presence of restaurants, roughly one-third include entertainment options, and one-in-four cite arts and culture organizations.
  • Time for a second act: Johnson advises Chicago leaders to look at what’s unfolding in nearby metros as (45%) of Detroit and (40%) of Indianapolis residents say that their cities’ entertainment options attract new people and businesses.

Takeaway: Chicago was once known for its thriving nightlife. As Chicago leaders plan for future growth, they should examine opportunities to increase investment in the city’s leisure and entertainment to keep residents going out – and staying local.

5. 43% of Adults Have Financially Cheated on Their Partner: NEFE-Harris Poll

Some (43%) of adults with combined finances in a relationship said they’ve committed an act of financial deception – lying about money or hiding cash, bills, and purchases – according to our new poll in partnership with the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) and featured in CNBC. Here is what else we learned:

  • Most deceptions happen for a few main reasons: Nearly 4 in 10 (38%) felt that some aspects of money should remain private, (34%) had discussed finances but felt their partner would disapprove, and (33%) were too afraid or embarrassed about their finances to speak with their partners.
  • It’s not better to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission: Of the couples who had experienced financial deception, (42%) said that it resulted in a fight, while others said it eroded trust and privacy, led to separate finances, or ended the relationship entirely.
  • However, there were a lucky few where discussing the financial infidelity made their relationship closer (19%) and led to more proactive communication later (16%).

Takeaway: If you have committed financial infidelity, it’s probably best to come clean to your spouse or partner as soon as you can, and clearly discuss how finances should or shouldn’t be combined.

Download the Data

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by The Harris Poll from November 24 to 28, among a nationally representative sample of 2,053 U.S. adults.

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John Gerzema


Download the Data

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by The Harris Poll from November 24 to 28, among a nationally representative sample of 2,053 U.S. adults.


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