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Gov. Phil Murphy. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Quinnipiac: voters more concerned about getting sick than short-term economic issues

Murphy won’t be able to just flip a switch and see state return to normal

By David Wildstein, May 06 2020 5:52 pm

More New Jerseyans are worried about getting sick then they are about the future of the state’s economy, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released on Thursday.

That comes as 36% of New Jersey says they have either lost their job or a substantial portion of their household income as a result of the coronavirus, and 39% of the state is either very or somewhat concerned about being able to pay their bills over the next month.

And 25% of the state is expressing concern about having enough food to feed their household.

But the highest number is this: more than seven in ten New Jerseyans (71%) say they personally know someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, or were diagnosed themselves.

Two-thirds of the state (67%) are either very worried or somewhat worried about becoming infected with coronavirus or getting seriously ill, while 32% are either not too worried or not worried at all.

When the sick or infected question is expanded to concern for family members, the number goes up to 80%-19%.

A majority of New Jerseyans (54%) believe the economic conditions in New Jersey will be excellent or good one year from now, while 42% expect them to be not so good or poor.

While Gov. Phil Murphy is enjoying record job approval numbers during the coronavirus pandemic, most New Jerseyans are feeling the economic hardships caused by COVID-19.

The poll seems to give Murphy the political cover to continue his shelter-in-place and social distancing orders instead of rushing to reopen the state, although voter attitudes toward Murphy could easily change if New Jerseyans view the economy differently during next year’s gubernatorial elections.

“There is a clear consensus that the state should be prioritizing slowing the spread of the coronavirus by keeping people home, even if it hurts the economy,” said Tim Malloy, a polling analyst at Quinnipiac.

Asked to choose between going back to work and jump-starting the economy or keeping New Jerseyans at home, voters went 71%-24% to continue sheltering in place.

Almost two-thirds of New Jerseyans (65%) say that government restrictions put in place to control the spread of the virus are “about right.”

By a 20%-14% margin, more people believe Murphy didn’t go far enough than those who think he went too far.   And 74% of New Jersey thinks the state needs more testing before lifting the stay-at-home order, while 20% think there has already been enough testing.

Just 29% of the state views New Jersey’s economy as excellent or good, and 66% say it’s either not so good or poor.

But when asked how they expect the economic conditions of the state to be one year from now, 54% believe it will be excellent or good and 42% say not so good or poor.

Slightly more than half of the voters polled (51%) said COVID-19 has caused financial hardship on them or a member of their family, while 48% said it has not.

Those numbers are different based on party affiliation: 55%-45% for Democrats, 44%-56% for Republicans, and 53%-47% for independents.

Non-white voters say coronavirus has created financial difficulties by a 59%-41% margin, and 41% of non-white New Jerseyans say they have either lost their job or a substantial portion of their family income.  And 53% of non-white voters are concerned about their ability to pay their bills.

According to the poll, the breakdown of the 71% of New Jerseyans who either tested positive for COVID-19 or know someone who has, more than twice as many (48% to 23%) were hospitalized.  And more people knew someone who died than recovered.

Murphy can’t just flip a switch

Even if restrictions are lifted in the next few weeks, 78% of the state say they would be uncomfortable getting on an airplane in the next few weeks, 78% aren’t comfortable using public transportation and 83% are not ready to attend large sports or entertainment events, but 57% think they would be fine with visiting friends.  70% of people are not ready to go to restaurants or bars.

Voters are more split on going back to work: 45% say they would be comfortable with that if restrictions are lifted over the next few weeks, and 50% say they are uncomfortable.  And by a statistically even 48%-49% margin, New Jerseyans said they’d go to the beach.

Three-quarters of the state are ready to go to parks, but more than half (55%) aren’t ready to resume going to hair salons and barber shops.

The Quinnipiac poll was conducted April 30 to May 4 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.2%.  Quinnipiac polled self-identified registered voters.

Quinnipiac 6 May 2020
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