Tampa Bay residents have become increasingly pessimistic about the impact of Covid-19 and the ability of their elected leaders to effectively handle the pandemic, according to a new poll by the Tampa Bay Partnership.
The findings were released Friday, as Florida recorded a record Covid-19 death toll for the fourth consecutive day, and Pinellas County posted 14 additional deaths.
As of Friday, there’s been a total of 16,356 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Pinellas County since early March, and 432 deaths due to the virus. In Florida, 6,966 people have died as of Friday. There were a total of 470,386 cases statewide.
The Partnership survey, conducted in collaboration with the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, United Way Suncoast and the USF Muma College of Business, reflected area residents’ worries.
“The trendlines are heading downhill in nearly every measure of public opinion right now,” said Rick Homans, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Partnership, a privately funded coalition of business executives. “People are worried. The majority of our residents want to pump or slam on the brakes when it comes to re-opening. Very few want to hit the gas. They’re giving our elected officials permission to take charge, and they’re losing faith in their government leaders when they don’t see that happening.”
The new survey was conducted July 21 and 22 by Downs & St. Germain Research of Tallahassee. It was the fifth such survey the research firm has done in conjunction with the Partnership.
The latest survey asked 384 adults in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties how concerned they were about the impact of the Covid-19 situation on themselves or members of their household. Fifty-four percent said they were “very concerned” about the virus, which was the highest level of concern since early April.
About half of those surveyed said they believed the area is still in the beginning stages of the crisis, or not quite halfway through it, while about one-third said the area is at the peak of the crisis. Just 11 percent believe it is near the end.
Their outlook for the future is dim – 84 percent believe the situation will be the same or worse in 30 days and 66 percent believe it will be the same or worse in 60 days.
There’s growing dissatisfaction with government response. Over half of those surveyed – 52 percent – rated President Donald Trump’s handling of the situation as “poor,” while Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis got a “poor” rating from 44 percent of those surveyed.
Fewer people were critical of local officials. More than two-thirds of those surveyed, 67 percent, rated St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s performance as excellent, very good or good, with 33 percent saying it was fair or poor.
The latest survey also found much higher support than previous surveys for government action to prevent transmission of the virus, including mandatory face mask policies.
Twenty-nine percent of respondents said local and state governments should pause additional steps to loosen restriction until the transmission rates decline, and 27 percent favor re-instituting stay at home orders. One-quarter of those surveyed said local and state governments should continue to loosen restrictions to reopen the economy and bring back jobs.
Forty-three percent of the local residents who were furloughed or laid off as a result of the virus and have not yet returned to work believe they won’t find another job at similar pay.
Nearly half of Tampa Bay residents, or 46 percent, said schools should remain closed.
Just under half of those surveyed, or 44 percent, said they intend to vote by mail in the November presidential election.
Fewer than half of those surveyed said they were “very likely” to get a vaccination as soon as one become available.