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It’s A ‘Shot Girl Summer.’ But America Is Still Not Fully Back To Normal.

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.

With temperatures soaring around the country, it certainly feels like summer (though worrying whether this extreme weather is the result of climate change is hardly contributing to a relaxed summer vibe). A growing share of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, states are lifting or relaxing pandemic-related restrictions and the overall number of new COVID-19 cases is in decline. But will the next couple of months feel like a “normal” summer — barbecues, beach vacations and all?

Not quite, according to recent polls. 

Back in the halcyon pre-pandemic days of summer 2019, 69 percent of Americans said they planned to attend a barbecue to celebrate the Fourth of July according to a Monmouth University poll from June of that year. But this year, in a poll conducted June 9-14, Monmouth asked the same question and found just 54 percent of Americans planned to go to a cookout. An Ipsos survey from June 22-23 captured similar sentiments, with a majority of Americans (55 percent) saying they planned to celebrate Independence Day in a way similar to last year, in a smaller way than before COVID-19 or not at all. However, 36 percent said they planned to celebrate the way they did before COVID-19, and 8 percent said they planned to go bigger than ever before.

Plans for other July Fourth celebrations are also down this year according to Monmouth, with 26 percent of Americans saying they planned to go to a professional fireworks display (compared with 51 percent in 2019) and 18 percent saying they were going to a parade (versus 28 percent in 2019). Summer vacation plans haven’t quite bounced back either: 34 percent of Americans said their plans were more or less the same as any other year, while 26 percent said they had scaled back or canceled their usual getaway.

Politics Podcast: Summer Mailbag Edition | FiveThirtyEight

Though Americans may not be totally ready for a “normal” summer, polls do show they are feeling more relaxed about the pandemic. In a Gallup poll from June 14-20, a majority (62 percent) said their life was “somewhat back to normal” while only 15 percent said “completely back to normal.” That same poll found that 71 percent of Americans didn’t think the pandemic was over yet, but most were optimistic about the direction it was heading: 89 percent said the coronavirus situation in the U.S. was getting a lot or a little better, compared with only 33 percent who felt that way in February. And for the first time since the start of the pandemic, the COVID-19 outbreak didn’t rank among the top two problems facing the U.S. according to a June 1-18 Gallup poll: 8 percent of Americans cited COVID-19 as the top problem in the country versus 22 percent who cited the government and 11 percent who cited race relations.

The CDC sign shot from below so it is backgrounded by a blue cloudy sky

related: COVID-19 Was Always Going To Be A Struggle For The CDC. But Trump Sure Didn’t Help. Read more. »

Even the emergence of the more transmissible delta variant of the coronavirus — which is causing public health experts to second-guess the lifting of mask mandates — hasn’t raised Americans’ concerns about COVID-19. Forty-eight percent said they were very or somewhat familiar with the variant, according to an Axios/Ipsos poll from June 25-28, but few claimed to be changing their behavior: 68 percent had visited friends or family in the past week, 65 percent had gone out to eat and 65 percent had gone to a store for something other than groceries.

It may be a “shot girl summer” — and things are certainly easing back into a more normal routine than last year — but we might not see a full return to the before times until 2022. However you choose to celebrate the holiday (or not), here’s to a safe and hopeful long weekend.

Other Polling Bites

  • While we continue to await the results of New York City’s Democratic mayoral primary, Boston’s nonpartisan mayoral race is just heating up. City Councilor Michelle Wu and Acting Mayor Kim Janey are the current front-runners, with 23 percent of likely voters favoring Wu and 22 percent favoring Janey, according to a June 23-26 poll by Suffolk University and The Boston Globe. In a crowded field of eight candidates, 22 percent were still undecided, but tellingly, 70 percent backed one of the four female candidates, all women of color. “Clearly the respondents are telling us that history will be made,” David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, told The Boston Globe. Janey became the first woman and the first Black person to lead the city when she was sworn in as acting mayor in March, but Boston has yet to elect a woman or Black person to the position.
  • As the partisan inquisition into the 2020 election results in Arizona comes to a close, distrust in the election remains high among Republicans. According to a Hill-HarrisX poll from June 24-25, 56 percent of registered GOP voters said President Biden had won the election through “voter fraud,” despite the lack of evidence. In addition, 27 percent agreed with the statement that “state-level reviews of the 2020 election results [would] change who is President of the United States,” even though reviews like the one wrapping up in Arizona are partisan and not being conducted with local election officials.
  • Last week, Britney Spears took the (virtual) stand in court to remove her father from her conservatorship, delivering an emotional 24-minute testimony where she claimed her conservators refused to let her remove her IUD, marry her boyfriend, travel freely or choose her own therapist. On Thursday, the judge denied her request to remove her father as co-conservator (though Spears may choose to file a request to dissolve the conservatorship entirely), but most Americans seem to be on the #FreeBritney train: In a YouGov poll conducted from June 25-28, 65 percent “strongly” or “somewhat” supported her request to terminate the conservatorship.
  • Working from home has monumentally changed how many Americans have done their jobs during the pandemic, and as offices begin to reopen, many workers are saying they’d rather quit than go back to a cubicle. Some companies are considering more flexible options, such as working from home a few days a week or even shortened work weeks: Kickstarter recently announced it was switching to a four-day workweek, a notion that many Americans find appealing. A YouGov poll found that 66 percent of Americans preferred the idea of a four-day, 10-hour-a-day workweek compared with five eight-hour workdays, and a plurality of respondents (38 percent) said that a four-day workweek would increase their productivity (although 34 percent said they’d be no more productive compared with working a five-day week).
  • The U.S. intelligence community released a report on “unidentified aerial phenomena” last week, acknowledging that it couldn’t explain or categorize 143 of 144 such events. While the report notes there is no evidence that these sightings are indicative of alien visitors, Americans are more willing to believe that they are. A majority of Americans (51 percent) said that military sightings of UFOs are “definitely” or “probably” evidence that intelligent life exists beyond Earth, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted from June 14-24. Sixty-five percent of adults said their best guess was that intelligent life does exist on other planets, but 51 percent said that UFOs are not a threat to national security. Keep your eyes peeled for more than just fireworks in the sky this weekend.

Biden approval

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker,1 52.1 percent of Americans approve of the job Biden is doing as president, while 42.2 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of +9.9 percentage points). At this time last week, 52.6 percent approved and 42.2 percent disapproved (a net approval rating of +10.5 points). One month ago, Biden had an approval rating of 53.7 percent and a disapproval rating of 39.8 percent (a net approval rating of +13.9 points).

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  1. As of 5 p.m. Eastern on Thursday.

Kaleigh Rogers is FiveThirtyEight’s technology and politics reporter.