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Optimism about Covid rises slightly, but many still worry about a bumpy road ahead

Forty-four percent say the worst of the virus may still be ahead, down from 55 percent before the election.
Image: COVID-19 Memorial Service Held In Washington On The Eve Of Biden's Inauguration
Douglas Emhoff, U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Dr. Jill Biden and U.S. President-elect Joe Biden look down the National Mall as lamps are lit to honor the nearly 400,000 American victims of the coronavirus pandemic at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool Jan. 19, 2021.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — As President Joe Biden begins his tenure in the White House, American voters are somewhat more optimistic than they were last fall about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States, but more than 4 in 10 still believe the worst is yet to come and a majority says the delivery of vaccines to the public has not gone well so far.

An NBC News poll conducted Jan. 10-13, found that 38 percent of voters believe the worst of the health crisis is behind us, while 44 percent believe the worst is yet to come.

That’s a bit more optimistic than survey results from shortly before the election in November, when just 25 percent of voters said that the worst of the virus was already in the rear view mirror and 55 percent predicted that the worst was yet to come.

In both the late October NBC survey and the latest one, 15 percent of voters said that the coronavirus is not a major problem at all.

In his inaugural address on Wednesday, Biden warned of a difficult winter ahead but urged Americans to come together to fight the disease.

"We are entering what may well be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus. We must set aside the politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation," he said, adding: "We will get through this together."

In the new survey, the most prominent drop in pessimism about the future of the virus has come from Democrats. In late October, 83 percent of Democratic voters said the worst was yet to come, which is down to 57 percent now.

Among independent voters, it was 55 percent last fall, down to 42 percent now saying the worst is yet to come.

While Republicans have typically been more optimistic about the impact of the virus overall, their assessment has actually become slightly darker in the last few months. In October, just a quarter of GOP voters said the worst of the virus was ahead. That’s up to 30 percent in the latest survey.

Amid disappointment in vaccine rollout, most blame federal government

Despite the slight uptick in hope that the worst days of the pandemic may be over, voters are unhappy with the rollout of the vaccines that aim to fully banish the coronavirus to the past.

Combined, more than half of voters say the administration of vaccines has gone poorly (30 percent) or “not too well” (25 percent) so far.

Just 11 percent say that administration of the vaccines has been going “very well,” and an additional 31 percent say it has been going “fairly well.”

Among those who say the rollout has been subpar, 64 percent place blame primarily with the federal government, while 21 percent say state governments bear most of the responsibility. Another 11 percent blame both equally.

Again, though, there is a stark difference by party. Among disappointed Democrats — who have been critical of the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus crisis — 79 percent blame the federal government. But among Republicans upset with the vaccine rollout, 52 percent say fault mainly lies with the states instead.

The NBC News poll was conducted Jan. 10-13, 2021. The margin of error for 1000 registered voters is +/- 3.1 percentage points.