After nearly two years in the coronavirus pandemic, Texans are split on their feelings about masks, COVID-19 vaccinations and related government and employer mandates, according to a new poll from The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler.
While nearly 75% of eligible Texans have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, opinions on whether an employer should require vaccination or weekly testing from their employees largely falls along party lines.
New cases of the highly contagious omicron variant appear to have peaked in Dallas County, but health experts warn that other, more transmissible variants could develop and spread in coming months. Discussions over public health measures to combat COVID-19 are far from over.
Here’s what the 1,082 registered voters polled by The News and UT Tyler between Jan. 18 and Jan. 25 had to say about some of the most divisive COVID-19 issues:
Have you worn a mask in the past seven days?
More than 75% of poll respondents reported wearing a mask in the past seven days. The majority of people, regardless of political affiliation, reported wearing a mask, although the percentage was much higher in Democratic respondents than Republicans.
Do you support local governments requiring face masks in most public places?
About 57% of respondents said they support local governments requiring people to wear masks or face coverings in most public places, while 35% opposed such rules. The remaining 9% said they didn’t know if they supported it or not.
Jerrime Gardner, a 47-year-old real estate area sales manager in Schertz, Texas, near San Antonio, said he’s supportive of mask mandates, citing his own experience with the virus. “I have seen COVID ravage through my company firsthand,” he said.
Leah McInnis, a 46-year-old office manager in Silsbee, Texas, near Beaumont, said she believed the decision of whether to wear a mask should be a personal choice.
“Say I go to a grocery store or something… maybe there’s some elderly people who are more afraid of COVID, I’ll put my mask on,” she said. “In situations, I will put my mask on, but I just don’t believe it should be a mandate.”
Are you more or less likely to support an elected official if they supported a mask mandate?
While a majority of respondents said they support local government mask mandates, only 45% said they were more likely to support an elected official if they supported mask mandates. About 22% said they were less likely to support an elected official who supported mask mandates, 10% said they would absolutely not support such officials and 23% said they didn’t care.
Support of elected officials based on feelings toward mask mandates largely correlated to political party, with 74% of Democrats saying they were more likely to support pro-mask mandate officials. Only one-fourth of surveyed Republicans said the same.
McInnis, who identifies as a Republican, said she would not support an elected official who supports mask mandates.
Do you plan to take the COVID-19 vaccine?
A majority of respondents – 64% in total – said they had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. More than half of those who said they’d received one dose said they’d already taken a booster dose as well. Only 19% of respondents said they did not plan to get the vaccine.
The rest of the respondents fell somewhere in the middle, with 7% saying they would definitely take the vaccine, 5% saying they would probably take the vaccine and 5% saying they were unlikely to take it.
Of respondents between the ages of 18 and 45, 51% said they’d received at least one dose, while 24% said they had no plans to get vaccinated.
If you have received the vaccine, do you plan to get a booster vaccine soon?
About 44% of respondents who had received the initial vaccine series said they planned to get the booster dose soon, and 24% said they would likely get it later. About 17% said they were ineligible because they’d received the second shot of the initial vaccine series within the last six months, while 14% said they weren’t interested in getting a booster dose at all.
(Guidance for when a person can get a booster dose for the COVID-19 vaccine has been updated to at least five months after completing the primary vaccine series for the Pfizer and Moderna shots and two months after receiving the Johnson & Johnson shot.)
Do you support or oppose employers requiring vaccination or weekly testing from employees?
Just over half of respondents said they supported employers requiring COVID-19 vaccines or weekly testing, while 39% said they opposed such mandates and 9% said they didn’t know how they felt.
Democrats were much more likely to support vaccine or testing mandates from employers, with 82% saying they were for the requirements and 12% saying they were against them. A majority of Republican respondents – 59% – said they opposed employers requiring vaccines or weekly testing, while 33% said they supported the requirements.
When compared to the percentage of people supportive of a local government’s mask mandate, fewer people said they supported employee vaccination or testing requirements.
“In asking any of these questions, we’ve always seen more acceptance towards just a simple request to ask people to wear a mask as opposed to taking the vaccine,” said Mark Owens, pollster and associate professor of political science at UT-Tyler.
What party do you trust more to help keep your community safe during the coronavirus pandemic?
Out of the 1,069 respondents to answer this question, 49% said they trusted the Republican party, 46% said they trusted the Democratic party and 5% said they were unsure who they trusted more.
Of the 345 Democratic respondents, 92% said they trusted the Democratic party more. Of the 440 Republican respondents, 87% said they trusted the Republican party more. Independents were more split – 47% said they trusted the Democratic party more, while 42% said they trusted the Republican party more.
Gardner, an Independent, said he trusts the Democratic party to keep his community safe during the pandemic more than the Republican party. His beliefs on other issues, however, align more with Republicans.
“I don’t know that the COVID thing is influencing my voting as much as some of the [other] policies, or lack thereof,” he said.
The Dallas Morning News/UT-Tyler Poll is a statewide random sample of 1,082 registered voters conducted between January 18-25. The mixed-mode sample includes 276 registered voters surveyed over the phone by the University of Texas at Tyler with support from ReconMR and 806 registered voters randomly selected from Dynata’s panel of online respondents. The margin of error for a sample of registered voters in Texas is +/- 3.0 percentage points, and the more conservative margin of sampling error that includes design effects from this poll is +/- 3.5 percentage points for a 95% confidence interval. The online and phone surveys were conducted in English and Spanish, using information from the 2020 Current Population Survey and Office of the Texas Secretary of State. The sample’s gender, age, race/ethnicity, education, metropolitan density and vote choice were matched to the population of registered voters in Texas.