POLL: More Texans concerned about COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on economy over spread of the virus


AUSTIN (KXAN) — According to a new poll from the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune, more Texans are growing concerned with the increasing economic problems caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic than with the dangers of the coronavirus itself.

The poll asked 1,200 registered Texas voters a series of questions gauging their concerns about the current crisis gripping the nation. From the results, 54% said they were either extremely or very concerned about the spread of COVID-19 in their community.

33% were extremely concerned with either themselves or someone they know catching the virus.21% were very concerned with either themselves or someone they know catching the virus.

However, more expressed concern over the economy at 72%. Breaking that down even further, 67% were concerned about the economy as a whole while 75% were specifically concerned with unemployment.

34% were extremely concerned about themselves or someone they know being able to pay their bills.21% were very concerned about themselves or someone they know being able to pay their bills.27% were very concerned about themselves or someone they know losing their job.30% showed concern over about interrupting their education or that of a family member.

“While Texans understand that the coronavirus is a significant crisis, the growing economic crisis is also exerting a powerful effect on attitudes,” said James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at UT Austin and a co-director of the poll. “Many Texans are experiencing the effects of the deepening economic crises and are faced with managing high levels of concern about both COVID-19 and economic distress.”

Gov. Abbott has already issued executive orders aimed at prepping the reopening of Texas. He is also expected to further loosen elements of his stay-at-home order in the coming weeks.

55% of Texans say not keeping people home long enough poses a greater threat than keeping people home for too long.34% of Texans say the greater threat comes from extended stay-at-home orders.

From the poll, 63% of Texans said they only leave their homes when absolutely necessary and 9% say they do not leave their homes at all. 20% of Texans say they are leaving their homes but being careful, while 9% say they are living their lives like normal.

The UT/TT poll showed the political divide over the issue with only 11% of Democrats and 55% of Republicans saying keeping people at home for too long is a greater threat to the country.

“Republican voters are much more likely to think that the virus is close to being contained, and that life will be going back to some version of normal,” said Joshua Blank, research director of the Texas Politics Project. “Ideologically speaking, Democrats are generally more inclined to accept large-scale government intervention and Republicans more likely to elevate the importance of the economy, leading both groups, at least partially, to different conclusions about how, and how fast, to reopen the economy.”

The poll even broke down how much Texans trusted the information on COVID-19 coming from various sources:

87% of Texans say they trust medical and health professionals.8% of Texans say they distrust medical and health professionals.70% of Texans say they trust the Center for Disease Control.23% of Texans say they distrust the Center for Disease Control.34% of Texans say they trust the media.17% of Texans say they trust social media.63% of Texans say they trust their family and friends.

The poll also broke down the trust of information coming from elected officials:

58% of Texans say they trust information coming from Gov. Abbott.55% of Texans say they trust information coming from their local elected officials.44% of Texans say they trust information coming from President Trump.49% say they distrust information coming from President Trump.

The poll showed a clear divide in what sources Texans trust along party lines. Republicans say their most trusted sources are medical and health professionals at 87%, Gov. Abbott at 85% and President Trump at 82%. Democrats say their most trusted sources are medical and health professionals at 93%, the CDC at 84% and friends and family at 62%.

“These days, even during a pandemic, partisans are suspicious of political leaders from the other side,” said Daron Shaw, co-director of the poll and the Frank C. Erwin, Jr. Professor of State Politics at UT Austin. “In this case, Democrats are not necessarily convinced that Republican leaders are on top of the situation or that they are telling us everything that we need to know.”

The poll also asked Texans where they stood on the various taken by Texas state and local officials to combat the spread of COVID-19:

Establishing additional hospital facilities to meet anticipated needs: 85% favored, 7% opposed, 8% had no opinion.Closing public schools: 83% favored, 10% opposed, 6% had no opinion.Requiring travelers from other cities and/or states with outbreaks to self-quarantine if they come to Texas: 83% favored, 8% opposed, 10% had no opinion.Prohibiting the size of gatherings to 10 people or fewer: 80% favored, 14% opposed, 6% had no opinion.Requiring Texans to stay at home except for essential activities: 77% favored, 16% opposed, 7% had no opinion.Restricting in-person religious services of more than 10 people: 74% favored, 17% opposed, 9% had no opinion.Closing state parks and recreational facilities: 68% favored, 24% opposed, 8% had no opinion.Suspending the operation of businesses determined to be “nonessential”: 66% favored, 25% opposed, 9% had no opinion.Postponing the May 2020 run-off elections: 55% favored, 27% opposed and 18% had no opinion.Prohibiting health care providers from performing abortions: 48% favored, 35% opposed, 17% had no opinion.Releasing some nonviolent offenders awaiting trial in county jails: 44% favored, 43% opposed, 13% had no opinion.

Data for the UT/TT poll was collected between April 10 and April 19. It was conducted online by YouGov using a questionnaire written by the directors of the poll at UT Austin.

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