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Tampa Bay

Growing concerns over COVID-19, disappointment in Ron DeSantis among Tampa Bay residents, survey shows

Tampa Bay concerns over COVID-19 are at a high since April, according to survey results released Friday morning.

The Tampa Bay Partnership’s latest COVID-19 Resident Sentiment Survey added questions regarding local response to school re-openings, coronavirus vaccines and the upcoming elections, in addition to the continuing topics of personal and economic impact. 

The most recent survey, which is done as part of a series of surveys completed every two weeks, showed a wave of pessimism among Tampa Bay residents. 

For the first time, more people (36%) believe COVID-19 is going to get worse in the next 60 days than it will get better or remain the same. Two in every five residents think COVID-19 is not quite halfway in its development — the grimmest assessment since early April.

About 54% of those surveyed reported to be “very concerned” about the impact of COVID-19. 

With the growing cynical outlook, the survey looked at residents’ feelings toward the response of local, state and national leaders. 

Opinions on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ handling of the situation showed a jump in disapproval in the past month. About 44% of residents rated DeSantis’ response to COVID-19 as poor, up from just 27% in the May survey. 

While DeSantis faced a stark jump in his poor rating, negative opinions on President Donald Trump’s response have gradually been increasing since April. The latest survey found that 52% of Tampa Bay residents found the President’s response poor, compared to 50% in May and 46% in late April. 

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor received highest ratings in her handling of COVID-19, yet ratings for all officials and governments except St Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman have dropped since May. 

The support of Castor and Kriseman makes sense since 86% of Tampa Bay residents support local mandatory face mask policies. Castor mandated face masks in mid-June, followed shortly by Kriseman. 

As elections near, the survey touched on how residents will be voting, with 85% of Tampa Bay residents registered and intend to vote in the November general election. Of the residents who intend to vote, more than half plan to do so by mail, and only 21% intend to vote in person on Election Day. 

The survey also looked at residents’ sentiment on schools reopening — nearly half (48%) of Tampa Bay residents believe schools should stay closed. One in six residents believes that schools should be reopening in August without hybrid or online options. 

As of Monday, 145,773 students in Hillsborough County submitted a declaration of intent, choosing between three options: brick-and-mortar schools, Hillsborough County eLearning or Virtual School. 

From those respondents, 71,980 have chosen in-person schooling, 63,179 will continue with eLearning, and 10,614 will go to Virtual School. There are still 44,512 students that have yet to respond. 

Tampa Bay area school districts, including Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, have delayed the start of the school year to Aug. 24.  

Data for the survey was collected in five waves of online surveys with respondents from Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties. There were at least 384 surveys completed in each wave

Written By

Kelly Hayes studied journalism and political science at the University of Florida. Kelly was born and raised in Tampa Bay. A recent graduate, she enjoys government and legal reporting. She has experience covering the Florida Legislature as well as local government, and is a proud Alligator alum. You can reach Kelly at kelly@floridapolitics.com.

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