New Jersey voters have realistic views on Covid-19, vaccination, & mask mandate

Two-thirds of New Jersey voters, including parents of school-age children, support the state’s school mask mandate, but they are more divided on the idea of requiring Covid vaccination for age-eligible children.

The Monmouth University Poll finds that anxiety about the risk of illness from Covid has inched up since May as has concern that the state’s efforts to stop the spread have not gone far enough but few Garden State residents have paranoid belief in conspiracy theories,

For many months, vaccine skeptics and critics of mask mandates around the nation have made up stories about coronavirus vaccines, accused the Food and Drug Administration of varying degrees of malevolence, challenged mask mandates and other public health precautions or other conspiratorial ideas.

Still, a majority of voters say New Jersey has been doing better than other states in dealing with the pandemic and both Gov. Phil Murphy and President Joe Biden get positive marks for their handling of the outbreak, but not as many as they did in May.

Just under half (48%) of Garden State voters say the state’s schools should be fully open for in-person instruction in the fall while 39% say they should have a mix of in-person and remote instruction. Just 8% say they should be fully remote.

In May, a slightly larger number of voters (56%) said schools should plan to be fully in person this year.

Among parents of children under 18 years old, 53% say schools should be fully in person (down from 61% in May), while 40% prefer a hybrid model (up from 31%), and 6% want fully remote instruction (similar to 7% in May).

Fully two-thirds of registered voters (67%) – and parents specifically (69%) – support the requirement that students, teachers, and staff in New Jersey schools wear face masks this year. In terms of a possible vaccine mandate, just over half of all voters (53%) would approve of requiring children age 12 and older to be vaccinated in order to attend school in person.

Just under half (45%) support the same requirement for school children under 12 years old if a vaccine is authorized for that age group in the coming months.

Parents, on the other hand, are somewhat less supportive of vaccine mandates for school attendance – 44% approve of requiring vaccines for the middle to high school age group and 39% would support that requirement for younger children.

“The vocal opposition to the state’s school mask mandate is a decidedly minority view. However, there may be greater pushback from parents if a vaccine mandate was instituted for school children,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Looking at efforts to control the spread of Covid in New Jersey in general, there has been a drop in the number of voters who say state government measures to slow the virus have been appropriate (from 58% in May to 45% now).

At the same time, the number saying the state has not gone far enough has increased from 13% to 24%. Another 1 in 4 (25%) say the state Covid measures have gone too far, which is similar to three months ago (28%).

A clear majority (62%) of New Jersey voters support reinstituting general face mask and social distancing guidelines, while 35% are opposed to this. Support for reinstating these measures comes from majorities of Democrats (86%) and independents (58%), but only 28% of Republicans.

Just over 4 in 10 (43%) voters are very concerned about a family member becoming seriously ill from Covid, which is up slightly from May (37%). Still, significantly more voters (51%) say New Jersey has been doing better than other states in handling the pandemic than say it has done worse (17%).

“The delta variant has raised public concern, but New Jerseyans look at what is happening in places like Florida and Texas and feel we have things under better control here,” said Murray.

Six in ten voters (61%) say Murphy is doing a good job dealing with the outbreak, which is down slightly from 65% who said the same three months ago. Murphy’s overall job rating as governor stood at 54% approve and 36% disapprove (compared with a 57% to 36% rating in May).

Just over half (54%) of New Jersey voters say Biden has done a good job as president handling the pandemic, which is down from 65% in May. Biden’s overall job rating in the Garden State stood at 51% approve and 41% disapprove (compared with a 55% to 40% rating in May).

Seventy-nine percent of New Jersey voters reported receiving at least one Covid vaccine dose. Another 2% plan to get it as soon as possible and 5% are still waiting for other people to get vaccinated and see how it goes.

One in ten voters (10%) say they will never get the vaccine if they can avoid it. The level of outright opposition to the vaccine by New Jersey voters has declined slightly from 14% in May, and is lower than the comparable national figure (16% in a Monmouth University Poll taken in July).

Republicans (18%) and independents (12%) are more likely than Democrats (3%) to fall into the anti-vax group, although the number has declined among all three partisan groups since May.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from August 11 to 16, 2021 with 810 New Jersey registered voters. The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

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