A majority of New Jerseyans remain concerned about Covid nearly three years after it first ripped through the state – and yet most oppose masking and distancing requirements and have not gotten the bivalent Covid booster, according to a new Monmouth University poll released today.
57% of respondents to the poll of New Jersey adults said they were “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about someone in their family getting sick with Covid, while 41% said they were “not too concerned” or “not at all concerned.” The rate of concern is higher than the last time Monmouth asked the question, in April 2022, but lower than it was during the height of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021.
There were clear partisan and racial divides in responses. 78% of Democrats said they were somewhat or very concerned, versus 37% of Republicans; 70% of respondents of color indicated concern, compared to 49% of white respondents.
And yet despite the relatively high rates of concern, just 32% of respondents said that they supported reinstating masking and distancing requirements, which were mostly phased out in late 2021 and early 2022; 63% were opposed. That’s the inverse of responses from earlier in the pandemic, when a majority of New Jerseyans said they supported such restrictions.
“New Jersey’s attitude seems to be, Covid is here to stay and we’ve just got to live with it,” Monmouth University Polling Institute director Patrick Murray said in a release accompanying the poll.
Additionally, just 23% of respondents said they’ve gotten a booster shot since September, when the new bivalent boosters were released. Overall rates of vaccination are high – 82% said they’ve received at least one dose of the vaccine – but the low rates of bivalent boosters indicates that New Jerseyans aren’t fully focused on staying up-to-date on their vaccines.
Gov. Phil Murphy, who became ubiquitous early in the pandemic with his daily Covid briefings, retains high approvals for his handling of Covid: 66% of respondents said he had done a good job, versus 26% who said he had done a bad job. Democrats (91%-5%) were much more likely than Republicans (37%-49%) to approve of Murphy’s performance, but as Murray noted, it’s remarkable that even that many Republicans were willing to praise a Democrat.
“More than a handful of Republicans give Murphy props for how he’s dealt with the pandemic, which is saying something in the current political environment,” Murray said. “It’s just not the most important issue for state residents of any partisan stripe right now.”
Nor is it seemingly the most important issue for the Murphy administration, which has almost entirely moved on from its pandemic footing. In his (in-person, largely maskless) State of the State Address two weeks ago, Murphy acknowledged that “Covid remains a public health reality” but otherwise gave little mention to the pandemic that once defined his governorship.