USA: FOURTH OF JULY: The pandemic will deter few Americans from their typical celebrations

By  James Fransham – Data correspondent – The ECONOMIST

After a gruelling 16 months of pandemic restrictions, for many Americans this weekend’s celebrations of the Fourth of July will be more heartfelt—and poignant—than for many years. President Joe Biden will mark the occasion by hosting thousands of key workers and military folk on the South Lawn of the White House in what is being billed as “independence from the virus”. 

Even so, for a lot of people this July 4th weekend may be much like any other. Our latest weekly poll from YouGov asked Americans whether they plan to celebrate more or less than usual this year. Fully 73% said they will be celebrating about the same as usual; only 8% said more than normal. Around 20% said they would do less than usual. That tallies broadly with our new “normalcy index”, which we launched in this week’s Graphic Detail section. From data on eight areas of life, from flights to movie-going, we find that activity in America is still about 25% below its pre-pandemic norm.         

It is telling, however, that respondents to our survey who say they will celebrate more than usual are younger, on average, while those that say they will do less are older. That suggests that even in spite of vaccines—55% of Americans over the age of 12 are now fully vaccinated—older people are still more likely to restrict their behaviour (see top chart). These differences don’t appear to be explained by whether or not people have been inoculated: the unvaccinated gave similar responses to the vaccinated.

Whether people will be celebrating more, less or about the same, will they be doing anything different this July 4th? We asked people what they are planning to do this weekend and compared their responses to those for the same question in 2018. July 4th 2021 appears pretty typical: just over one-third say they will celebrate with family and friends; and about three-tenths will have a barbecue or cookout, the same as in 2018. For most other activities, too, the proportions look almost identical to 2018 (see lower chart).

But there are two exceptions. First, we find a statistically significant rise in the number of people that plan to watch TV, from 26% in 2018 to 31%. Second, the number of people who plan to do household chores—cleaning, DIY, gardening and the like—has risen from 18% to 23%. America’s successful vaccine programme may have given its citizens their freedom back, but they’re not all dancing in the street just yet. To find out when the country collectively begins to let loose you can follow America’s (and the rest of the world’s) progress towards normalcy with our interactive tracker, which I’ll be updating every week.

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