One day after Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Florida’s “baby steps” toward reopening from COVID-19 restrictions and a phased plan to get there, Florida voters are largely supportive of the approach he laid out — expressing a mix of excitement and apprehension about venturing out and whatever comes next.
That’s what we found when we conducted a survey in the hours after the Governor’s announcement for a “safe, smart, step-by-step” beginning.
Our quick take: Floridians mostly approve of the Governor’s approach to reopening and increasingly believe the state is getting its COVID-19 response right, but they remain cautious about returning things to “normal” too quickly.
We have been in the field surveying each of the past seven weeks, polling over 3,000 Florida voters on their social, well-being, political, and economic views relating to COVID-19 in the state.
Our first survey was fielded March 20 and the most recent (“Week 7”) was conducted April 30.
This week we asked several questions related to Phase 1 of Gov. DeSantis’ plan to reopen the state.
Here’s what we found:
— Floridians are familiar with the plan and largely agree with its approach — Floridians are clearly paying attention — 81% report that they’re at least somewhat familiar with the Governor’s plan. Among those familiar with the plan, 38% feel it is happening too soon, while a large majority believe the timing is right (47%) or could have happened sooner (15%). Fewer than 1 in 3 (31%) believe Phase 1 opens up too many types of businesses, while the remaining 69% think it opens the right types of businesses (47%) or doesn’t open up quite enough (21%).
— Confidence in the state’s COVID-19 approach is also rising — About 7 in 10 Florida voters (69%) believe the state’s response to COVID-19 is heading in the right direction, a small improvement from 65% in Week 4. Consistent with this, approval ratings for Gov. DeSantis’ coronavirus response are also on the rise (notably, President Donald Trump’s are unchanged and far lower), and Floridians credit the Governor (46%) more than their local mayors (42%) for “flattening the curve.
— People are hesitant to venture out, expressing more concern than excitement — Voters remain split — between concern or anxiety (66%) and excitement or relief (49%) — at the idea of Florida businesses beginning to reopen. Many feel a combination of these emotions. About two-thirds (66%) also say they feel more stressed than usual when venturing out of their homes these days.
— Most believe that grading for elementary school students should be nixed for the semester — Only slightly more than one-quarter of Florida voters (28%) believe elementary school students should receive A-F grades as usual this semester, given the wide variation in how different families and school districts are handling remote classes and the challenges this kind of learning brings.
A lot has happened in the past seven weeks — a period in which each day feels like the ones before it, and yet each day brings rapid, unforeseen changes. Surely, there are several things that haven’t much changed:
— Homelife is fairly stable, and isolation hasn’t become increasingly difficult — Family members are, on average, getting along with one another just as well as they were before, and for most the isolation has not become any more difficult than it was at the outset. In our first survey, 21% said isolation felt more difficult than they expected; today, at the close of Week 7, that was the response from 19%. Conversely, the portion who feel that isolation is less difficult than expected had increased by about a third, from 23% in Week 1 to 30% now. That doesn’t mean people are excited to stay at home, but the challenge of it hasn’t appeared to grow with time.
— Many are concerned they’ll be unemployed long-term, unchanged from the start — Employed Floridians are just about as concerned today as they were six weeks ago that their employer will go out of business, leaving them out of work for an extended period of time. The portion of respondents who are “very concerned” about this prospect declined slightly from 37% in Week 1 to 33% today. That said, more than 4 in 10 have seen their personal pay cut in some way due to COVID-19, and almost 3 in 4 say the coronavirus has hurt their employer’s business.
— Remote workers remain productive — Those who are working from home have indicated no change in productivity levels from Week 2 to Week 7 — about 29% say they’re more productive working from home, about 27% say they’re less productive and 45% say there’s no difference at all.
But there are plenty of things that HAVE changed over the past month and a half and they’re not all bad:
— Parents seem to be finding a rhythm for work and home-school — Parents who are working from home AND supervising the schooling of children younger than 15 seem to be finding a better balance. In Week 2, almost two-thirds (63%) reported that school closures had some impact on their ability to perform their job responsibilities. Today, that number had fallen to 41%.
— News consumption is down, but the channels have changed — People are spending less time reading and watching coronavirus-related news. At the outset, 59% of Floridians were spending at least an hour a day doing so, while today this figure is down to 38%. Still, 41% say that they are watching more television news these days than before COVID-19 and 68% say TV is among their top sources for coronavirus-related news. That said, online news sources remain the most common, with 89% saying they get their news in this way. As for print newspapers, read by 13% of respondents, there appears to be a 10% decline in newspaper subscriptions over the past few months: just 90% of those who had papers delivered before COVID-19 say they still do, now.
— People are thinking about their futures — More than 6 in 10 Floridians have “gained” time thanks to less commuting or lighter traffic, and many are using this extra time to pursue things like hobbies (40%) or reading (41%). But there’s also been an increase — from 12% to 17%, a jump of almost one-half — in those under the age of 55 who say this experience has made them consider going back to school, and more than a third (37%) say they’re considering pursuing more training, such as a professional credential or certification.
— Remote work may become more common, even after things are back to “normal” — Finally, among Floridians who have been working remotely, 72% said this week that they believe their company will adopt more regular “work from home” options even after things return to normal — indicating that this global experience may have long-lasting impacts on how people and employers interact.