New poll shows Floridians want statewide mask policy

Many resident don't like governor's approach, survey says

A box filled will face masks at the Medic Egypt for Medical Clothes at the factory in Menoufiya, Egypt, Saturday, June 6, 2020. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty) (Nariman El-Mofty, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

A vast majority of Floridians support requiring that people wear face masks in public to reduce the spread of COVID-19 — a measure neither Gov. Ron DeSantis nor the Brevard County Commission will support.

The newly released Quinnipiac University Poll of registered voters in Florida indicates that 79% say people in Florida should be required to wear face masks in public, according to News 6 partner Florida Today.

But DeSantis said he will not support such a move. During a news conference Thursday at Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne, DeSantis contending that COVID-19 spread is not as big a problem in a retail setting as it is between people in a residence.

The Brevard County Commission twice rejected proposals from Chairman Bryan Lober to institute mask policies at businesses. One would have encompassed most retail businesses. The other would have been more limited, covering small businesses seeking county grants through money Brevard County received from the federal CARES Act.

The poll also finds opposition to DeSantis' initiatives to reopen schools this fall; concern about his performance in handling the coronavirus pandemic; and declining overall job approval numbers for the governor.

Most respondents also said the feel the spread of the coronavirus is out of control in Florida, with 70% expressing that viewpoint, vs. 24% believing it is under control and 6% saying they don’t know or didn’t answer.

A separate section of the poll found that former Vice President Joe Biden opened up a lead over President Donald Trump among voters in Florida, a key state in the election.

Here are some details of the poll of 924 registered voters, which was conducted July 16-20 by calls to landline and cell phones. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

Mask policy

Support for a statewide mask requirement spreads across political and demographic lines, to varying degrees.

For example, 95% of Democrats, 79% of independents and 60% of Republicans feel that way.

By age, here is the breakdown of support for a mask policy: 85% of 18- to  34-year-olds; 76% of 35- to  49-year-olds; 74% of 50- to  64-year-olds; and 83% of those age 65 and older.

The support was:

  • Higher among Blacks (90%) and Hispanics (89%) than among whites (72%).
  • Higher among women (81%) than among men (76%).
  • Higher among those with a four-year college degree (78%) than those without a four-year college degree (69%).
  • The support was highest in Southeast Florida (92%), where the highest concentration of COVID-19 cases has been reported, compared with other areas of the state, where support ranged from 71% to 75%.

A number of counties, cities and towns statewide have implemented various types of face mask requirements in their communities, as have a number of major retailers, including CVS, Publix, Target and Walmart.

School openings

The survey found that 56% of respondents disapprove and 37% approve of how DeSantis is handling the reopening of schools.

DeSantis reiterated at his news conference in Melbourne that schools should offer in-person instruction this fall. He said parents who are uncomfortable sending their children back to school should be offered a remote-learning option.

“To deny people the ability to get in-person instruction, I think that will be very problematic and I think that that will create a lot of problems that we’ll regret in the months ahead,” DeSantis said.

More than half of the parents in Seminole County and Orange County have yet to chose on which options they want to send their students to school next month as that decision deadline looms.

In a related question, the survey found that 62% of respondents felt is was unsafe to send students back to elementary, middle and high schools in the fall; 33% thought it was safe; and 5% didn't know or provided no answer.

It found that 57% of respondents felt is was unsafe to send students back to colleges in the fall; 37% thought it was safe; and 6% didn't know or provided no answer.

"DeSantis' commitment to putting students in classrooms in the fall is a nonstarter with voters," Quinnipiac University polling analyst Tim Malloy said in a statement released with the poll results. "From elementary school kids to collegians, Floridians are saying 'forget it.' "

Stay-at-home orders

Respondents were divided on whether DeSantis should issue a stay-at-home order for the state to slow the spread of the coronavirus, with 49% saying yes and 48% saying no.

Worry about coronavirus

The poll found that most Floridians were at least somewhat worried about becoming infected and seriously ill from the coronavirus.

Of the respondents, 33% said they were very worried about that possibility for themselves; 33% were somewhat worried; 16% were not too worried; and 18% were not worried at all.

They were even more worried about that scenario for another family member, with 49% saying they were very worried; 27% were somewhat worried; 13% were not too worried; and 11% were not worried at all.

Governor’s job approval

The poll found that 41% of the respondents approved of the way DeSantis is handling his job as governor, 52% disapproved and 7% didn’t know or gave no answer.

Republican voters still like what the governor is doing, with 82% approval, compared with 13% approval from Democrats and 35% approval from independents.

The governor's overall approval numbers are down from an April Quinnipiac poll, when 53% approved and 33% disapproved. His numbers were even better in two 2019 Quinnipiac polls.

More respondents disapproved of how DeSantis handled the response to the coronavirus (57%) than approved (38%). In April, the numbers were reversed, with 50% approving and 41% disapproving of the governor's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.  

Separately, 61% felt DeSantis reopened the economy too quickly; 6% thought he reopened it too slowly; 31% thought he reopened it at the right pace; and 2% didn't know or didn't answer.

Presidential race

The survey shows that voters back Biden over Trump, 51% to 38%. In an April poll, it was close, with Biden at 46% and Trump at 42%.

Democrats back Biden in the latest poll (89% to 2%); independents back Biden (48% to 32%); and Republicans back Trump (88% to 10%).

“The president doesn’t escape the shifting moods and concerns of voters in Florida,” Malloy said. “His sagging numbers are a gut punch from one of the key states he keenly hopes to win.”

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