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  • Posted June 18, 2024

Most Americans Believe Pandemic Policies Were Good Idea: Poll

Despite all the grumbling at the time, most Americans now look back upon pandemic-era policies as a good idea, a new poll shows.

A majority of Americans see four key pandemic policies as “generally a good idea” in retrospect:

  • Mask requirements in stores and businesses (70%)

  • Healthcare worker vaccination requirements (65%)

  • Indoor dining closures (63%)

  • Closing public schools (56%)

However, views varied across policies, the poll found.

Only 42% of Americans say all four policies a good idea, and another 37% say only some were a good idea.

But only 20% say all those policies were “generally a bad idea,” results show.

“Public health professionals need to know that these vital protections are still available in their toolboxes,” said Brian Castrucci, president and CEO of the de Beaumont Foundation, which co-sponsored the survey with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“Understanding what drives resistance for some people can help inform the best ways to use and communicate about these policies should we need to call on them in the future,” Castrucci added.

As might be expected, politics is a powerful factor when it comes to reflecting on pandemic-era politics.

About 71% of Democrats say all four policies were a good idea, compared with 44% of Independents and 18% of Republicans, poll results show.

Likewise, 55% of people living in urban areas approved all four policies, compared with 39% of suburbanites and 29% of rural dwellers.

However, within these groups some policies were popular.

For example, 62% of Republicans said at least one of the four was a good idea, as did 70% of people in rural areas.

People who said key policies were generally a bad idea gave as reasons:

  • The policies went on too long (84%-87% across policies).

  • There were political motivations behind the policies (60%-81%).

  • The policies affected the economy (68%-91%).

  • People’s personal choice was impeded by the policies (75%-94%).

Among those who said school closures were a bad idea, nearly all said that the policies had a negative effect on children’s learning (97%) and mental health (91%).

“In order for all Americans to benefit from public health protections during outbreaks, leaders need to see there are opportunities to build on public receptivity, even where it is limited, and understand where people’s concerns come from,” said survey director Gillian SteelFisher, director of global polling in the Harvard Opinion Research Program.

“These data suggest that keeping outbreak response policies focused on the most at-risk populations, communicating clear, limited timeframes, and considering the broader economic and societal impacts of policies could go a long way to maintaining public support in the next outbreak and beyond,” SteelFisher added in a Harvard news release.

The poll found few total COVID deniers, with only 3% saying the virus was not a health threat to anyone early in the pandemic.

However, many said COVID was not a serious health threat to everyone.

About 14% said it was a serious threat only to the elderly and frail, and another 45% said it was a threat only to those with underlying medical conditions as well as the old and frail.

Only 37% said it was a serious health threat to everyone early on. Those who said this are more likely to support key pandemic policies, results show.

The survey involved 1,017 adults contacted online and by phone between March 21 and April 2.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19.

SOURCE: Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, news release, June 17, 2024

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