UC Berkeley poll finds racial, ethnic disparity in COVID-19 effects

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According to a poll of thousands of registered California voters, people of color are more likely to worry about COVID-19's financial and health impacts on them and their families.

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In a recent poll from UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, or IGS, far more Latinx voters, especially those who are predominantly Spanish-speaking, than white voters said they would describe the coronavirus as a major threat to their or their family’s health

IGS polled more than 8,000 registered voters in California through email, in both Spanish and English, asking questions about how they felt the pandemic has impacted their own and their family’s health and financial situations.

In terms of both finances and health, the findings show that Black and Latinx voters are struggling more than white voters are.

For example, 59% of Latinx voters said the disease poses a major threat to their family’s finances, and among those who are Spanish-dominant, this percentage increases to 79%. Additionally, about half of Black respondents, 45% of Asians or Pacific Islanders and 31% of white people reported this.

According to Mark DiCamillo, director of the Berkeley IGS Poll, now that the data is visible to the public, community leaders can act on it.

“It’s just put out there to hold up a mirror to the voting public so that policymakers can go about making the policies that would be most helpful to the public,” DiCamillo said. “If we can get accurate measurements of how the public is faring, hopefully, our elected leaders can go about fashioning policies that would have the biggest impact on the groups that are being most affected (by COVID-19).”

IGS has partnered with the California Research Bureau in Sacramento over the summer to do a “deep dive into the local impacts of COVID across districts,” according to Eric Schickler, co-director of IGS and a UC Berkeley political science professor.

Schickler added that ideally, there would have been a greater national response to the pandemic, but in the absence of that, IGS has decided to share this data with officials on a more local level.

Arianne Eason, a UC Berkeley psychology assistant professor who studies racial and class inequalities, is not surprised by the poll’s results.

She said in the COVID-19 pandemic, people of color are more likely to die, more likely to know someone who died, more likely to feel stressed and more likely to be financially affected by the pandemic.

“The negative outcomes for these groups will last far longer than the pandemic itself, and the racial disparities in this country will only become more pronounced and entrenched,” Eason said in an email.

Eason said in the email that she has concerns, however, that the experiences of Native Americans were not included in the poll, given that Native Americans have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, yet are “often left out of the discussion, and therefore out of policy considerations.”

Contact Clara Brownstein at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @clarabrownstein.