Polls Track Marylanders’ Views on COVID-19 — and Its Toll

Doctor taking a swab sample. Stock photo by Mladen Sladojevic/Getty Images

Two recently-conducted polls show that Marylanders remain worried about COVID-19 — and many have been directly impacted by the virus. They believe that most of the precautions taken in the name of public health in Maryland have been about right.

Maryland voters approve of the job Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) is doing managing the public health crisis but feel a lot less favorably about President Trump — who would lose the state badly to former vice president Joe Biden if the 2020 presidential election were held today.

Gonzales Research & Media Services released a poll Tuesday morning asking state voters a range of questions about COVID-19 and the government response to the pandemic. The poll of 810 likely general election voters was taken May 19-23 and had a 3.5-point margin of error.

The poll found that 22% of voters say the restrictions Hogan put in place in March to prevent the coronavirus from spreading have “gone too far,” while 15% say the restrictions “haven’t gone far enough.” But almost two-thirds of Maryland voters — 63% — said the restrictions that have been put in place to prevent COVID-19 from
spreading “have been about right.”

There was a partisan divide on the question: Fifty-three percent of Republicans say the restrictions went too far, while only 5% of Democrats said the same. Seventy-four percent of Democrats said the restrictions were about right, while 39% of Republicans gave that answer.

Similarly, 64% said the stay-at-home measures that have been put in place to protect people have been worth it, while 22% said these measures have caused more harm than good, placing unnecessary burdens on people and
businesses in Maryland.

Fifty-seven percent of voters said they are concerned about
becoming ill from the virus (17% “very concerned” and 40% “somewhat concerned”), while 41% are not concerned.

However, 53% across the state said they or someone close to them have lost a job or had income reduced due to the coronavirus crisis — 64% in the rural
areas of Maryland.

“The economic impact of the coronavirus in the coming
months will likely begin to take a more conspicuous role in shaping voter attitudes,” pollster Patrick Gonzales wrote.

Hogan’s approval rating is up 8 points from the prior Gonzales poll taken three months ago. Seventy-eight percent of voters said they approve of the job Hogan is doing — 42% strongly approved — while only 18% said they disapproved of the job he is doing.

Notably, Hogan had a higher approval rating among Democrats than he did among Republicans: 82% compared to 71%. His approval rating among nonaffiliated voters was 74%.

Trump, by contrast had a 40% approval rating in Maryland, compared to 58% who did not approve of the job he is doing. In a general election match-up with Biden, Trump trailed by 24 points, 59% to 35%, with 6% undecided.

Forty-three percent of poll respondents said they personally know someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus, while 56% say they don’t. By region, 35% in the Baltimore metro area said they know someone who has tested
positive for COVID-19, compared to 55% in the Washington metro area, and 41% in Western Maryland and on the Eastern Shore.

Across the state, 57% are concerned about becoming seriously ill from the coronavirus (17% “very concerned” and 40% “somewhat concerned”), while 41% are not concerned about becoming seriously ill from the virus (13% “not at all concerned” and 29% “not that concerned”), with 2% giving no answer.

In the poll, 53% said they or someone close to them have lost a job or had income reduced due to the COVID-19 crisis, while 46% said they have not.

The results in the Gonzales poll build on numbers contained in an earlier survey from OpinionWorks — and show that Marylanders’ attitudes have changed slightly in just a matter of weeks.

The OpinionWorks survey — released last week but taken April 28-May 4 — showed residents across the state are deeply worried that they or someone in their immediate family will contract the illness, half of Marylanders are impacted financially by COVID-19, and large numbers are postponing or canceling major milestones like weddings, schooling, retiring, or relocating.

The poll of 612 Maryland adults had a 4-point error margin.

“The impacts of COVID-19 that people describe are profound and heartbreaking,” said Steve Raabe, OpinionWorks president and the author of the poll. “Though economic hardship is widespread, the impact on Marylanders goes far beyond the economy. People describe a level of stress and sadness over the unknowns of this pandemic, the loss of precious time with parents or grandchildren, and the postponement or cancellation of lifetime milestones like retirement or graduation.”

These are the highlights of the OpinionWorks poll:

  • Nearly one-third of Marylanders (31%) know someone personally who has tested positive for the coronavirus.  Another 5% know someone who could not get a test but may have had COVID-19.
  • More than two-thirds (70%) said they have a significant level of worry “that you or someone in your immediate family could become ill with COVID-19.” Almost one-third (31%) said they are “very worried” about that, and another 39% said they are simply “worried.”
  • Most of the remainder are “only a little worried” that someone in their immediate family will contract the disease, leaving only 8% – fewer that one in ten – who said they are not worried at all.
  • Nearly half (47%) of Marylanders said their economic livelihood has been affected by the pandemic. One in six (17%) said they have lost their job or their primary source of income. Another 30% said their income is reduced.
  • Very few Marylanders think “social distancing can be ended and things will begin to get back to normal where you live” anytime soon. Only 12% think that will happen in the next few weeks. One-third (35%) think it will be sometime this summer, while one-quarter (23%) said it will not be until fall or winter. One-fifth of Marylanders (20%) think it will be 2021 or later before things begin to get back to normal.
  • Similar to the Gonzales poll, Hogan received a 75% approval rating for his handling of the coronavirus crisis (with 7% disapproving and the rest “mixed or not sure”), while Trump earned approval from only 26% of Marylanders, with a 56% majority disapproving and 17% mixed or not sure.
  • Here too, the Republican governor’s approval rating for his handling of the COVID situation was higher among Democrats (83%) than it was among Republicans (66%). Seventy-nine percent of unaffiliated voters said they approve of his handling of the crisis.
  • Among Maryland Republicans in the survey sample, 70% approve of the President’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, 17% disapprove, and 13% are mixed or not sure.  Democrats predictably disapprove of his performance overwhelmingly (79%), as do a solid majority of unaffiliated voters (55%).

In an open-ended question, survey participants were asked, “Is this crisis impacting any major decisions in your life, whether those are career plans, personal plans, or intentions to pursue additional education?  If yes, please describe the impact on your plans.” Two-thirds (66%) of Maryland residents described experiencing that kind of a major impact.

Inability to travel is the most common impact people mention, but there are many other significant impacts, detailed in the attached survey questionnaire.

“Reading their comments, one gets a sense of the emotional toll people are feeling, and the severe impact on the course of people’s lives,” Raabe said. “For many people, it could be years before they are able to move beyond this, and for some people, the losses may never be recovered.”

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Josh Kurtz
Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.