More than three months after the COVID-19 pandemic crashed into New Jersey, as of June two-thirds of the state’s residents support the sweeping restrictions meant to keep the virus in check, according to a Tuesday report from Fairleigh Dickinson University.
Many of them support mandatory masks in public, the FDU Tuesday poll found, and only 29 percent said they felt it was safe for restrictions to be fully lifted.
“There’s scant evidence in New Jersey that the public is looking for a speedy return to normal as long as a treatment or a vaccine remain out of reach,” Krista Jenkins, the poll director and an FDU political science professor, said in the Tuesday report. “It looks like the heavy toll the virus took early on in the pandemic has left state residents leery of letting down their guard.”
FDU interviewed 809 New Jersey adults between June 18 and 30 for the poll.
The pandemic, and the response from the Murphy administration, have had a crushing toll on the state and its economy.
In the second half of March, Gov. Phil Murphy enacted a host of sweeping restrictions that barred public gatherings and non-essential travel, and ordered most businesses to close their doors or dramatically scale back operations in a bid to deprive the virus of any in-person hosts.
The result has been record-high unemployment – 16.6 percent in June – second only to Massachusetts.
But New Jersey emerged as one of the few states that has so far brought the virus under control, an oft-touted metric by the governor.
Murphy, a Democrat, has met intense blowback from business and trade groups, and from Republican lawmakers. He’s even met resistance from those within his own party, including Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, an often-times political rival of the governor.
But another FDU poll from earlier this month found that many New Jerseyans approve of the job Murphy has done as governor during the pandemic.
To keep the nationwide resurgence of the virus at bay, Murphy enacted an advisory for travelers from any of 31 states with “COVID-19 hotspots” to self-quarantine for 14 days, though the actions are purely voluntary.
And the governor ordered masks to be worn both indoors, and outdoors where 6-foot physical distancing is not possible.
In the results released July 28, most New Jerseyans – 77 percent – said they support the mask requirement. Only 20 percent said it should be optional.
“Making masks mandatory continues to be a divisive issue among Democrats and Republicans even in New Jersey,” FDU pharmacy professor Elif Özdener-Poyraz said in the Tuesday report. “More Republicans than Democrats are against making masks mandatory and believe it should be a person’s personal choice to wear one.”
“Despite this division, the vast majority of New Jerseyans accept the evidence that masks are effective for protecting against the virus and that it’s a good thing to require them.”
The poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.