Poll: Most Californians don’t support easing restrictions amid COVID-19 pandemic

As counties across California allow stores and restaurants to reopen amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, most in the state don’t think easing restrictions is a good idea.

According to a new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California, fewer than three in 10 people believe decreasing restrictions on physical activity is the right move. While 46 percent say they want about the same number of restrictions, a quarter want more restrictions. In the Bay Area, specifically, just 28 percent want fewer restrictions.

The findings are based on a survey of 1,706 adults in the state, conducted by phone between May 17-26.

The support for coronavirus restrictions in the PPIC poll mirrors what other, earlier polls have found. What is notable is that Gov. Gavin Newsom and local politicians have been speeding to ease the rules more recently — although still more slowly than other states that are ending stay-at-home orders — amid a perception that’s what the public wants. The new poll raises doubts about that perception.

Most Californians — 58 percent — are concerned about state governments easing restrictions on public activity too quickly, while 38 percent are worried about states not moving fast enough to ease restrictions.

“The concern about the disease is so high,” Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO, said in a phone interview. “It gives pause for thought about the wisdom of acting too soon.”

With public health officials warning that allowing public gatherings could send coronavirus case numbers soaring, nearly half of Californians — 48 percent — think the worst of the pandemic is still ahead. That sentiment is particularly strong among African Americans, who have been hit hard by the deadly disease. Sixty-nine percent of African Americans share that view, compared to 53 percent of Asian Americans and Latinos and 41 percent of whites.

“Californians’ perceptions and expectations with the COVID-19 crisis are yet another reminder of the deep fault lines between Californians based on their income and race and ethnicity,” Baldassare said.

More than half of Californians are at least somewhat concerned about contracting the virus and needing to be hospitalized, with low-income residents most likely to be very concerned. The state, including the Bay Area, has seen a number of outbreaks among lower-income service workers at grocery stores such as Cardenas Markets.

And the poll found that the economic toll of the virus is widespread. More than a third of adults say they or someone in their household has lost a job because of the pandemic, and half say someone in their home has had their pay cut or hours reduced. Those earning under $40,000 are disproportionately likely to have suffered a job loss, as are Latinos.

Still, 65 percent of adults — including 64 percent of likely voters — approve of the way Gov. Newsom is doing his job, his highest approval rating as governor to date.

Most residents approve of his handling of the pandemic and support his handling of jobs and the economy. They also overwhelmingly back his plan to send vote-by-mail ballots to all registered voters in the state, even as President Donald Trump has claimed with no evidence that mail voting is rife with fraud.

Californians are more divided on Newsom’s revised budget, which forecasts a major drop in projected revenue and a multibillion-dollar deficit. And just a third of residents support the inclusion of tax increases in the budget.

Californians are also less optimistic about the national economy than that of their home state. Just 23 percent think the country will do well financially in the next year, down from 47 percent in November 2019.

One polling figure, although low, has held constant: support for Trump. A third of likely voters in the state approve of the job he is doing, a figure that is in line with polling from February and just slightly below polling from last May. While 83 percent of Republicans in the state approve and 41 percent of independents are supportive, just 7 percent of Democrats think Trump is doing a good job. Among the state’s likely voters, 57 percent say they would cast a ballot for Joe Biden for president.

In general, though, Californians do not trust the federal government. Just 6 percent think they can trust the government almost all of the time, while 18 percent think the government is trustworthy most of the time, 64 percent think sometimes and 9 percent say never.

Generally, when a major crisis like 9/11 or, in this case, a pandemic occurs, Baldassare said, approval climbs for leadership at the federal level. But that hasn’t happened this time.

“The fact that there wasn’t a move up,” Baldassare said, “is indicative of how polarized things are.”

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Author: Emily DeRuy