Poll: Federal health agencies get good marks, but give mixed messages on COVID

Majority supports return of mask guidelines as concerns rise

A slim majority of Americans, pushed by Democrats, support reinstating masking and social distancing guidelines, according to a Monmouth University survey conducted before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced their recommendations revised last week. The poll finds that public anxiety about contracting COVID-19 has increased after hitting an all-time low last month and many are worried about a further increase. While many point to the reluctance of some people to get vaccinated as the main reason for the recent increase in cases, there is little evidence that opposition to the vaccine in the American public has been much more affected.

Before the CDC reversed course and announced new masking guidelines last week, the poll found that a majority of Americans (52%) were at least somewhat supportive of instituting or reinstating guidelines. on the face mask and social distancing in their state. 46% are opposed. The partisan division on this issue is huge – 85% of Democrats support the return of the guidelines while 73% of Republicans oppose it. The independents are divided with 42% support and 55% opposition.

Federal government health agencies are generally seen as doing a good job in the face of the pandemic – a view shared by 57% of the public, compared with 33% who say these agencies are doing a bad job. At the same time, most Americans (59%) say these agencies, such as the CDC, have given mixed messages about the risks of COVID. Another 39% say these agencies have been largely consistent in their messaging.

“I think Americans recognize that the CDC and other health agencies face a lot of uncertainty. Still, it’s difficult for the average person to understand the switch from optional masks to necessary ones again. The message was not clear, ”said Patrick Murray, director of the independent polling institute at Monmouth University.

Currently, 53% of the American public are at least somewhat concerned that a family member becomes critically ill with the coronavirus. This is an increase from the pandemic-era low of 42% recorded in the Monmouth poll last month. However, the current result remains lower than all previous results, which ranged from 67% to 83%. The number of those who say they are very concerned about a serious illness in their family now stands at 30%, up from 23% in June but still below the previous range of 37% (early June 2020) to 60% (January 2021 ). ).

Just under half (48%) of Americans are at least somewhat worried about catching one of the newer variants of the coronavirus. Interestingly, those who received at least one dose of the vaccine (57%) are slightly more likely to be worried about catching any of the newer variants than those who are not vaccinated and are either ready to be vaccinated or wait a little longer to see how things are going (47%). On the flip side, extremely few (16%) of those who remain staunchly opposed to getting the vaccine fear catching any of the newer variants.

“Many anti-vaccines, if not most, think COVID is a hoax or that they are unlikely to be infected. Which means there may be very little you can do at this point to change your mind, ”Murray said.

Currently, 68% say they have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine – which is in line with current CDC reports – while 2% will get it as soon as possible and 9% remain hesitant, but persuasive.

However, 17% say they remain opposed to the idea of ​​getting the vaccine. Of those who admit they won’t get the vaccine if they can avoid it, 70% identify with or lean towards the Republican Party while only 6% align with Democrats. Of those who are considering getting the vaccine or are convincing, 45% are Republicans or lean for this party and 40% are Democrats or Democrats. Of those who have already received the vaccine, 32% are on the Republican side of the political divide and 59% are on the Democratic side.

The 17% who oppose the vaccine appear to be slightly lower than previous results (which ranged from 21% to 24%), but there is an important caveat. Another 4% of respondents did not answer this question (which is slightly up from previous polls). As in previous polls, the partisan profile of this “don’t know” group closely resembles the anti-vax group. Anti-vax and non-response groups together make up 21% of the public, which is similar to the number recorded in polls in April and June (23%).

“It could be a data problem, but it’s possible that more anti-vaccines will refuse to publicly admit their position now that their own party leaders are pointing fingers at them for the recent wave. However, it is not clear that calling them out removed many, if any, of them from their vehement anti-vax stance, ”Murray said. He added, “On the other hand, we’re starting to get anecdotal reports here from some people who objected to the vaccine getting it on the sly. Maybe they’re worried it’ll undermine their credibility in the partisan tribe if they admit it. The fact that we have to consider these possibilities reflects how much our political discourse has deteriorated. “

Overall, public concern about another round of vaccination if the number of people is not enough has increased over the past month from 57% who expressed at least some concern to this topic in June at 65% today. It should be noted that the number of people very concerned about another flare has increased from 26% to 44%.

Almost half (46%) of the public say most of the recent increase in COVID cases in parts of the country is due to people unwilling to get vaccinated. In a separate question, 22% say most of the increase would have happened anyway, regardless of how many people were vaccinated. The usual partisan divisions are present in these results, with Democrats (68%) being more likely than Republicans (29%) to blame vaccine opposition for most of the recent increase in COVID cases.

In other poll results, President Joe Biden continues to receive positive reviews for his handling of the pandemic, with 55% saying he has done a good job and 38% saying he has done a bad job. The public gives similar ratings for how their state governors have handled COVID (54% good job and 42% bad job). However, the good number of jobs for the president and governors has decreased by 4 points since June.

Opinion has grown even more negative about how the American public has handled the outbreak, with 32% saying they are doing a good job – up from 42% in June – and 51% saying they are doing a bad job. – against 40%. The current result marks a return to a similar negative rating for the American public from late June 2020 to March 2021.

The Monmouth University survey was conducted by telephone July 21-26, 2021 among 804 adults in the United States. The results of the question in this release have a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points. The survey was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch.

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