UC Berkeley researchers discuss poll on public opinion toward impacts of COVID-19

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As part of campus’s ongoing series “Berkeley Conversations: COVID-19,” researchers discussed a statewide poll they conducted that gauged public opinion on topics relating to the coronavirus.

The poll was completed by campus organizations Institute of Governmental Studies, or IGS, and California Initiative for Health Equity and Action, or Cal-IHEA. Campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof moderated the discussion.

The poll was conducted through email April 16-20, and all respondents are registered voters. It was the largest of its kind in California and addressed issues such as health insurance, support for farmworkers and impacts of race and political affiliations on public opinion.

The researchers found the level of partisanship surrounding COVID-19 to be higher than they expected.

“You might have expected that a global pandemic might bring people together and erode partisan differences,” said IGS interim co-director Eric Schickler during the event. “What we found is, at least in some important ways, some pretty big differences between especially those who approve of President (Donald) Trump and those who disapprove and how they think about response to COVID.”

The poll also revealed differences in opinions across racial lines. Black, Latinx and Asian respondents were more likely to be working in closer proximity to other people and more likely to consider COVID-19 a “serious threat to their health,” according to IGS interim co-director Cristina Mora.

Although these groups are more likely to feel the economic impacts of COVID-19, according to Mora, they were less likely to want to restart the economy. Mora attributed this in part to the fact that these groups also experience a large portion of pandemic-related health risks.

The researchers also found that 55% of respondents supported a “Medicare for All” plan, in which all Americans get insurance through a single government plan. Of the 55%, the majority disapproved of Trump.

“The major ethnic and racial groups in the state have changing attitudes more open to the idea of single payer,” said Cal-IHEA director Hector Rodriguez during the event. “We think this pandemic has uncovered a lot of the insecurities associated with job-based health care.”

The poll also showed “overwhelming support” for farmer protections such as social distancing, protective equipment and paid sick leave, according to Rodriguez.

Rodriguez added that the poll is “lopsided,” since about two-thirds of respondents disapproved of Trump.

Polls like this can be helpful in guiding policy decisions, according to Mora.

“Laypeople pay attention to it but policymakers really pay attention to it,” Mora said during the event. “A lot of this is trying to figure out, of all the things that we can pay attention to, of all the needs, things that need money, things that need our attention, where is it that I should go.”

Contact Emma Rooholfada at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @erooholfada_dc.