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Majorities favor mask mandates, targeted lockdowns, USF poll finds

The survey also shows strong support for vaccinations and stimulus relief.
Many fans wear masks, some do not, as the Toronto Raptors host the Miami Heat in a preseason NBA basketball game at Amalie Arena on Dec. 18. In recent a poll of voting-age Americans by University of South Florida researchers, 66 percent said they would "somewhat" or "strongly" support a national mask mandate.
Many fans wear masks, some do not, as the Toronto Raptors host the Miami Heat in a preseason NBA basketball game at Amalie Arena on Dec. 18. In recent a poll of voting-age Americans by University of South Florida researchers, 66 percent said they would "somewhat" or "strongly" support a national mask mandate. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Jan. 14
Updated Jan. 15

As deaths from COVID-19 continue to hit record levels, two-thirds of American adults support mask mandates, just over half support lockdowns of nonessential businesses and nearly 60 percent are inclined to get vaccinated, according to results from a national poll released Thursday by University of South Florida researchers.

The poll surveyed 1,003 voting-age Americans between Jan. 9 and 12. It was conducted by USF’s School of Public Affairs and its Florida Center for Cybersecurity.

Researchers said they released the portions of their results that have timely impacts on public policy. The rest will be released later.

“We’re a week away from an inauguration, a new administration,” said Stephen Neely, a professor at the School of Public Affairs. “It’s a good time to take stock of what Americans feel about potential policy issues that might be coming up and understand where folks are at on the vaccines now that we’re into the actual rollout of them.”

About 38 percent of those who responded to the USF poll said they would “definitely” get vaccinated, while 59 percent said they would “definitely” or “probably” do so. About 23 percent said they will “probably not” or “definitely not” get vaccinated.

About 29 percent of those polled said they were “not very” or “not at all” confident the vaccines would be effective and about 33 percent said they lacked confidence that the vaccines were safe.

While Neely said responses didn’t vary greatly by region, there were some differences in vaccine opinions depending on age, gender, race and political party. For example, men were more likely than women to say they would probably or definitely get the vaccine — 64 percent compared to 53 percent.

Older and younger respondents were more likely to get vaccinated than those who were in middle age. Among those surveyed who were 65 and older, 76 percent said they would likely get the shots. It was 60 percent for those 18 to 24 years old, but that dropped to 48 percent for people in the 45- to 54-year-old age group.

Twenty-one percent of respondents had talked to their primary care doctor about getting vaccinated so far, and most said they get information about the vaccines from TV news, social media, friends, family and coworkers.

The numbers of those planning to get vaccinated, Neely said, are not far off from what other national surveys found about six weeks ago. But for the vaccines to reach efficacy and have a “herd immunity” effect, at least 80 percent of the population needs to take it, he said.

“We haven’t really moved the needle from about six weeks ago and I think that probably has to do with the fact that the rollout of the vaccine has been a little less smooth than expected,” Neely said. “We do have a ways to go in terms of getting folks to feel comfortable getting vaccinated to get to the level to end the pandemic, so to speak.”

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On the topic of fighting the virus, 51 percent of survey responders said they would support a national shutdown of non-essential businesses and 66 percent said they would “somewhat” or “strongly” support a nationwide mask mandate — including penalties for noncompliance.

However, their responses varied by party affiliation. Fifty-five percent of Republicans would oppose a national mask mandate compared to 35 percent of Democrats.

The survey also found strong bipartisan support for additional stimulus plans from the federal government. Nearly 80 percent said they would “somewhat” or “strongly” support additional $2,000 payments to Americans and extending federal unemployment benefits. Seventy-five percent supported extending a pause on student loan repayments and 71 percent supported extending a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions.

The results were reported with a 3 percent margin of error.

A second round of survey results regarding online behavior changes during the pandemic are expected to be released within the next two weeks.