According to UT Poll, Texans Expressed Less Concern About COVID-19 in June

This poll was compared to a similar set of questions from April

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According to a poll by the Texas Politics Project at The University of Texas at Austin, Texans expressed less concern about the threat of the 2019 novel coronavirus in June than they did in April.

Even as the number of reported cases of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations was increasing in June, people were much less likely to stay home because of the pandemic, according to the same poll.

The poll surveyed 1,200 Texans during June 19-29 and is being compared to identical questions asked in an April poll by the same researchers about the pandemic.

The results of both polls show a significant decrease in concern about the virus:

  • The share of Texans who reported being "extremely" or "very" concerned about the spread of the coronavirus in their community decreased from 54% in April to 47% in June.
  • Those who reported being "not very" or "not at all" concerned about its spread in their community increased from 17% to 26%.
  • The share reporting being "extremely" or "very" concerned about either themselves or family members contracting the virus decreased from 54% to 48%.
  • Those who reported being "not very" or "not at all" concerned increased from 17% to 27%.
  • The share who reported that they were only leaving their residence when they "absolutely" had to decreased dramatically from 63% to 37%.
  • Those who reported that they were "living normally, coming and going as usual" more than doubled from 9% to 19%.

"Although it's safe to assume that fatigue with staying at home is a widespread feeling, we saw much larger decreases in concern and reported limiting of public behaviors among Republicans than we did among Democrats," said James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project and co-director of the poll. "Mixed messages from national and state leaders about the severity of the virus and its spread have clearly influenced people's behaviors along partisan lines."

The poll found that 81% of Texans reported "wearing a mask when in close contact with people outside" their homes, but nearly 1 in 5 Texas voters are not heeding this public health advice, including 31% of Republicans.

While only 7% and 12% of Black and Hispanic/Latinx voters respectively reported not wearing a mask, 25% of white Texans reported not wearing a mask when leaving home.

"Wearing a mask is one of the most basic things people can do to combat the virus without any further restrictions on their behaviors. Unfortunately, it appears as though a significant share of Texans have decided not to adopt the habit," said Joshua Blank, research director of the Texas Politics Project. "It's also clear from the data that the choice not to wear a mask isn't random. Republicans were significantly more likely to skip wearing a mask."

The poll asked Texans whether they would participate in different elements of contact tracing, the process of identifying people who may have come into contact with an infected person and the subsequent collection of further information about these contacts.

Texans' evaluation of both national and statewide efforts to fight the virus turned more negative in June. When asked in April how efforts to deal with the coronavirus are going in the U.S., a majority of 56% said that things were going "very" or "somewhat" well, with 40% saying that the efforts were going badly.

A majority of 51% now say that things are going badly, with 46% saying that efforts are going well. Similarly, in Texas, 64% of voters said that efforts to fight the coronavirus were going well in April; in June, only 47% agreed.

"The crosscurrents in Texans' attitudes evident in the poll results illustrate why it has been so difficult to navigate the politics necessary to mount a consistent, sustained response to the pandemic," Henson said. "Because basic understandings of the pandemic are increasingly shaped by partisanship, we are in a moment in which large swaths of the public are both critical of the government response and seemingly unwilling to change their own behavior in the name of public health."

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