Support for Mask Mandates, Social Distancing Craters in New Jersey

Support for face mask and social distancing guidelines in New Jersey has dropped significantly since the fall, and less than half of the state supports workplace vaccine mandates according to a new Monmouth University poll.

Concern about Covid illness has hit an all-time low as many report having been infected with the virus themselves. The poll also finds New Jerseyans give good grades to the governor and the state as a whole for handling the pandemic.

Only 1 in 3 (34%) New Jerseyans support reinstituting general face mask and social distancing guidelines in New Jersey. Another 64% are opposed. This is a reversal from polls taken last fall, when more than 6 in 10 voters in the state backed bringing back these measures. Support for reinstituting these Covid guidelines has declined among every partisan group, but the largest drop has occurred among Democrats – from 89% who supported these measures in September to 50% who back them now.

Just under half of the state (45%) supports requiring proof of Covid vaccination to work in an office or other setting around people. A slight majority (52%) opposes such a workplace vaccine mandate.  There is a wide partisan gap on this measure, ranging from 72% of Democrats to just 17% of Republicans who support it.

Garden State support levels for both social distancing and masking guidelines and workplace vaccination mandates are nearly identical to national public opinion results from a poll Monmouth conducted last month.

“There’s a combination of factors at play here. The delta variant was not as bad as predicted while the omicron surge made it seem as if infection was inescapable. New Jerseyans are willing to get boosted themselves, but that may be the best they can do against future waves,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

About 1 in 4 New Jerseyans (23%) are very concerned about a family member becoming seriously ill from the coronavirus outbreak. This is down from about 4 in 10 who felt the same throughout last year and 6 in 10 who expressed this concern in the first months of the pandemic. At the same time, about half the adults polled report having Covid or thinking they had Covid at some point, including 38% who say their infection was confirmed with a test. Both findings for New Jersey – confirmed infection prevalence and concern about family illness – are identical to recent national poll results.

About 6 in 10 New Jersey adults (59%) report having already received a booster shot of the Covid vaccine. [Note: this number appears to be a little higher than CDC reporting, but there is some confusion over the population bases used to calculate booster rates which could contribute to the difference.] At the other end of the spectrum, 24% say they are not at all likely to get a booster. Garden State residents are somewhat more willing to get the booster than all Americans on average (48% already boosted versus 33% not at all likely in a March national poll).

In New Jersey, anxiety about a family member getting seriously ill from Covid has declined over the past year by 22 points among Democrats (from 52% very concerned in May 2021 to 30% now), by 15 points among Republicans (from 27% to 12%), by 11 points among white residents (from 29% to 18%), and by 20 points among people of color (from 50% to 30%). Republicans (46%) are much more likely than Democrats (8%) to be not at all likely to get a Covid vaccine booster shot. There is less difference by race in opposition to getting this additional dose – 28% of white New Jerseyans are not at all likely compared with 19% of Black, Hispanic, and Asian residents.

Gov. Phil Murphy continues to receive broadly positive reviews for his handling of the Covid outbreak, with 67% who say he has done a good job and just 25% who say he has done a bad job. His pandemic rating has never dropped below 60% positive since the pandemic started two years ago.

Just over half of the public (53%) says New Jersey has done better than other states in dealing with the pandemic. Just 14% say it has done worse and 31% say it has done about the same as other states. These results are basically in line with Monmouth polls taken last year.

“Murphy’s handling of the pandemic has always been a source of strength in public opinion about the governor. It just wasn’t the most important issue when voters went to the polls last November,” said Murray.

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