Irish Times poll: Young people have stronger appetite for loosening restrictions

While 67% are looking forward to socialising this summer, 30% feel anxious about mixing with others

The poll finds that 2021 will be another year of staycations, with only 14% planning a holiday abroad this summer. Photograph: Getty Images

Today’s Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll finds the country is quite evenly split in terms of attitudes towards the pace at which Covid-19 restrictions are being relaxed.

While 50 per cent feel the Government should proceed with the full reopening of business and society as quickly as possible, 46 per cent would prefer it to happen at a slower pace.

Fieldwork for this poll was conducted face-to-face on Monday and Tuesday of this week among a national sample of 1,200 Irish adults aged 18 years and upwards across 120 sampling points covering every constituency.

Since the darkest days of the pandemic, when we were “all in this together”, a clear divide has emerged between young and old people. Recent polls have shown that young people have a much stronger appetite for a loosening of restrictions and a return to normality, while older age groups remain generally satisfied with the current measured trajectory.


This age dynamic is very apparent in today’s poll findings. Those aged under-35 are most likely to prefer a quicker reopening (61 per cent), while a similar proportion of over-65s feel that the pace of reopening should be moderated (62 per cent).

These differences across age groups exist despite the considerable progress being made in the vaccine rollout. Today’s findings come at a time when most over-65s are fully vaccinated, but under-35s are not yet eligible to register to receive a vaccine.

It suggests that any desire for a loosening of restrictions is not linked to vaccination status, but instead is a product of more deeply held fears and appetites for risk that have developed over the past 15 months.

Differing views

Despite these differing views about the pace of reopening, a large majority (70 per cent) believe the Government is doing a good job in handling the pandemic, with just 26 per cent expressing dissatisfaction with how it is being managed.

There is evidence of higher levels of frustration with the Government among those seeking a faster reopening of society. Within this group 32 per cent think that the Government is not doing a good job, compared with 20 per cent dissatisfaction among those who would prefer a slower reopening. Food for thought for the Government as it seeks to balance the opposing wishes.

The poll also finds that 2021 will be another year of staycations, with only 14 per cent planning a holiday abroad this summer.

Yet again we see a divide between younger and older people, with 27 per cent of under-25s planning on going abroad, compared with just 11 per cent of the over-65s.

Most people are planning on staying in Ireland, but not everyone is looking forward to getting out and about. While 67 per cent are looking forward to socialising this summer, a significant minority (30 per cent) feel anxious about mixing with others.

Once again, age plays a huge role in shaping our pandemic opinions, with 87 per cent of under-25s looking forward to socialising while 43 per cent of over-65s feel somewhat anxious about a return to normality.


The longer-term view among most of the Irish population is that the precautions we have become used to are, to some extent, here to stay. The majority view, expressed by 65 per cent of those polled, is that even when most people are vaccinated, some precautions – such as wearing masks in shops – should remain in place. In contrast, 32 per cent feel that once most people are vaccinated, life should return to the way it was before Covid-19.

The key message from this poll is that while a vaccine provides a physical protection against Covid-19, the emotional damage caused by over a year (and counting) of restrictions will take longer to repair. Normal is unlikely to return any time soon.

Kieran O’Leary is a director of polling company Ipsos MRBI