• The availability of adult vaccinations shows itself in results
  • Latest survey collected just before child vaccinations were OK’d in the U.S.

ST.  LEO, FL – An extensive survey conducted by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute (https://polls.saintleo.edu) shows that more than eight in 10 Americans, and a similarly high proportion of Floridians, say they are “still taking precautions due to COVID” amid continued reported high levels of concern about the disease. Their responses were collected from October 17 through October 23.

Additionally, at least one-quarter of those polled nationally—and more of those polled in the separate, Florida sample—report having lost “a friend, relative, or coworker” as a result of the pandemic.

Frank Orlando, director of the Saint Leo University Polling Institute and a political scientist, said “Although there is a slight decrease in the number of people concerned about COVID over the past year, there are still a large number of people who are very concerned about the pandemic. That the proportion of people concerned is high despite efficacious vaccines and new therapeutics available makes it hard to see just when President Biden will be able to declare the war against the coronavirus to be over and won.”

Orlando added that “It will be interesting to see how concern declines between now and next fall as we continue to gain weapons in this fight.” Since respondents completed the survey, vaccines have been approved for children ages 5 to 11.

The polling institute conducted the survey online among 1,000 respondents nationally. The findings from that large base have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.0 percentage points. Simultaneously, the polling institute asked the same questions of 500 Florida respondents. The Florida findings have a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

As some of the questions asked in the October 2021 survey were also asked in a prior, February 2021 poll, the institute is able to show whether and how much some views have evolved.

The institute asked respondents in February and then again in October to describe their level of concern about COVID-19. The respondents were asked to choose from: very concerned, somewhat concerned, somewhat unconcerned, not at all concerned, or unsure, to describe their state of mind.

The results are shown here:

Concern Level Over COVID-19  National February 2021 –  % National October 2021 – % Florida February 2021 – % Florida October 2021 – %
Very concerned 46.1 41.0 52.8 42.2
Somewhat concerned 33.8 36.5 31.0 39.2
Total concerned 79.9 77.5 83.8 81.4
Somewhat unconcerned 9.5 10.4 8.4 8.0
Not at all concerned 9.3 10.7 7.0 10.2
Total unconcerned 18.8 21.1 15.4 18.2


A review of demographic groups in the national survey base shows that some Democrats, African Americans, and those ages 65 and older are apt, as groups, to have more people feeling higher levels of concern than the population at large.

The October survey then asked respondents to pick one statement of several offered that would describe their thoughts and actions in relation to the available COVID-19 vaccines for adults. The respondents could indicate that they: had received the first of two shot; both of two shots; the single-dose vaccination; had not yet gotten one or both shots, but planned to; planned not to receive a vaccination shot; or were unsure. (Third shots were not widely available at the point the question was posed.)

The answers collected showed an inclination toward full vaccination or actual vaccinations. In the national sample, 50 percent said they had received both of the regimen of two-shot treatments; 18.8 percent said they had gotten the first of two shots, and another 6.0 percent said they had taken the single-vaccine dose. An additional 7.3 percent said they intend to be vaccinated. Collectively, those results account for 82.1 percent in the national sample. A nearly identical pattern emerged from the line-by-line Florida results.

Here are the responses shown in a table.

Current Vaccination Status National October 2021        % Florida  October 2021                               %
I have received the first of two vaccination shots 18.8 17.8
I have received both vaccination shots 50.0 52.2
I have received the single-dose vaccination 6.0 4.8
I have not received one or both shots but plan to do so 7.3 7.4
Total receiving or planning
to receive the shot
82.1 82.2
I will not be receiving the vaccination shots 14.6 14.0
Unsure 2.5 3.0
I prefer not to answer 0.8 0.8


Those saying they will not be taking a vaccination represent 14.6 percent in the national sample, and 14.0 percent in the state sample. Additional questions were asked of non-vaccinated respondents. A separate Saint Leo University Polling Institute release is devoted to the additional questions to these respondents, and the respondents’ answers.

The survey also asked people more generally whether they were “still taking precautions due to COVID,” given that other steps in addition to vaccinations were available, such as masking, social distancing, and so on. Respondents were asked to say whether they agree strongly somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree.

Response to test statement: “I am still taking precautions due to COVID.” National % Florida %
Strongly agree 44.5 51.0
Somewhat agree 36.9 32.8
Combined agreeing 81.4 83.8
Somewhat disagree 7.9 8.4
Strongly disagree 7.1 5.6
Combined disagreeing  15.0 14.0
Unsure 3.6 2.2


Dr. Cheryl Kozina, who teaches biology and medical humanities at Saint Leo University, said she, too, is intrigued that the levels of concern in 2021 had not receded much from 2020.

But there are possibilities that make could account for the continued concern, she noted. One is the experience people had when the Delta variant came onto the scene and prompted people to recede again into their own surroundings, Kozina said. Another potential source of worry could stem from respondents seeing people ignore precautions that are still advised, Kozina said, such as wearing masks in shared spaces, taking a vaccination, or limiting the exposure that children who are too young to be vaccinated can have to possibly risky spaces.

“Alternatively,” Kozina reasoned, “it could be that this concern has stayed steady because—  despite the wide availability of vaccines since the October 2020 survey—many more people in the past year could have had someone close to them affected/pass away from COVID.”

There is a statistical basis for that line of thought. The survey quantified the proportions of respondents who reported that they were among those who had “lost a friend, relative, or worker” due to the pandemic. With the national sample, 25.1 percent of respondents affirm that this has been their experience, while 32.6 percent of respondents in Florida report the same experience.

As of October 24, the day after the survey was closed to respondents nationally and in Florida, the official count of U.S. coronavirus deaths was 736,000.

Kozina said that the survey question and the findings speak “to the fact that when someone passes away from an illness, it is not just the person whose life was lost that is affected—there is a ripple effect to family and friends who cared deeply about that person. The loss is felt way beyond just a number on a page. We also saw cases where there were “super spreader” events where families had many members get sick after a funeral or wedding, or a church community experience the loss of several congregants after COVID spread through church services. In these sad cases the loss was compounded even more.”

The associate professor added another point about the extended impact of COVID deaths that she said is happening within the medical and health care systems, and that could be difficult for society in the long term.

“Many physicians, nurses, and other medical staff have to face a constant loss of life, the likes of which they may never have experienced before,” she said. “We are seeing an exodus of health care professionals as many are experiencing burnout beyond anything they have felt before in their careers. I fear that we are facing a long-term nursing and physician shortage that will be felt for many years to come.”

Statistics showing improvement

Two findings of the October survey did reveal some restoration of pre-COVID conditions or outlooks across the American landscape.

From the February 2021 survey to the October 2021 survey, there was a decline in the percentage of respondents who identified the COVID-19 pandemic as the single most pressing issue (from a long list of possible choices) facing the nation. In February, 41.4 percent of the national sample cited COVID as the No. 1 problem, making it the most frequently designated choice. In the more recent survey, that national percentage has subsided to 17.8, and a larger group of people, 26.3 percent, rank jobs and the economy as the primary current issue. Looking at the Florida results, the pandemic also topped the list of concerns among respondents of the Sunshine State in February: 32.2 percent said COVID-19 was the single most pressing problem. In October, the percentage is down to 20.6 percent. That, essentially, is a tie with jobs and the economy, computed as the answer for 21.6 percent in the October Florida poll.

Respondents were also asked to consider how they regard the pandemic’s effects on their individual lives.  They were given the test statement: “Things for me are relatively back to normal or back to where they were before the pandemic.” Then they were asked to indicate their level of agreement or disagreement.

Possible responses to the idea that things are back to normal in one’s life, or at back to where they were before the pandemic.


National                 – % Florida     – %
Strongly agree 18.1 21.2
Somewhat agree 36.6 39.8
Combined agreeing 54.7 61.0
Somewhat disagree 26.0 21.2
Strongly disagree 14.3 13.4
Combined disagreeing 40.3 34.6
Unsure  5.0  4.4


Kozina said she thinks this result is coming from many in the vaccinated population and a level of relative safety they are apt to feel.

“We hear stories of breakthrough infections, possibly even people who we know closely, but those same people don’t experience serious illness. It’s likely making many vaccinated people feel more comfortable that they can resume much of their ‘normal’ pre-pandemic lives without fear of death or protracted illness. The exceptions to this, of course, would be those who are immunocompromised and who may not have the same protection from the vaccine, and those who have vulnerable family members in their lives: children too young to get vaccinated, family members who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, or family members who choose to not be vaccinated.”

About the Poll

METHODOLOGY: This national survey was conducted from October 17, 2021, through October 23, 2021, among a base of 1,000 respondents nationally, using an online instrument. The national sample has an associated margin of error of +/- 3.0 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence for questions asked of all 1,000 respondents.

The statewide survey was also conducted during the same time period, among a base of 500 respondents, using an online instrument. The sample has an associated margin of error of +/- 4.5 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence for questions asked of all 500 respondents.

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute conducts its surveys using cutting-edge online methodology, which is rapidly transforming the field of survey research. The sample is drawn from large online panels, which allow for random selections that reflect accurate cross sections of all demographic groups. Online methodology has the additional advantage of allowing participants to respond to the survey at a time, place, and speed that is convenient to them, which may result in more thoughtful answers. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute develops the questionnaires, administers the surveys, and conducts analysis of the results. Panel participants typically receive a token incentive—usually $1 deposited into an iTunes or Amazon account—for their participation.

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey results about national and Florida politics, public policy issues, Pope Francis’ popularity, and other topics, can also be found here: http://polls.saintleo.edu. You can also follow the institute on Twitter @saintleopolls.

Media contacts:

Jo-Ann Johnston, Saint Leo University, University Communications jo-ann.johnston@saintleo.edu or (352) 467-0843 (cell/text).   

Mary McCoy, Saint Leo University, University Writer & Media Relations, mary.mccoy02@saintleo.edu, (352) 588-7118 or cell (813) 610-8416.

About Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University is one of the largest Catholic universities in the nation, offering 57 undergraduate and graduate-level degree programs to more than 18,200 students each year. Founded in 1889 by Benedictine monks, the private, nonprofit university is known for providing a values-based education to learners of all backgrounds and ages in the liberal arts tradition. Saint Leo is regionally accredited and offers a residential campus in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, 16 education centers in five states, and an online program for students anywhere. The university is home to more than 98,000 alumni. Learn more at saintleo.edu.