A University of Georgia poll found support for the shelter-in-place that Gov. Brian Kemp put into effect April 3, but about 62% of respondents said they disapprove of the governor’s recent decision to ease restrictions on restaurants, theaters and close-contact businesses such as barbershops and nail salons. (ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Poll: Georgians back shelter-in-place, oppose rollback of restrictions

A broad majority of Georgia voters support a statewide shelter-in-place to combat the spread of the coronavirus, according to a University of Georgia survey released as Gov. Brian Kemp debates whether to extend stay-at-home orders set to expire Thursday night.

The survey found about one-half of registered Georgia voters support the mandate that took effect April 3, and an additional one-quarter of voters “somewhat back it.” Only about 10% of Georgians oppose the idea; the rest are neutral or undecided.

And roughly 62% of Georgia voters disapprove of Kemp’s decision to ease restrictions on restaurants, theaters and close-contact businesses such as barbershops and nail salons over the past week, a measure that was strongly criticized by Democratic leaders, prominent local mayors and President Donald Trump.

Just as the political pushback cut across party lines, so did the response from voters. Majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents opposed Kemp’s decision to reopen the businesses, with only about one-third of Republicans saying they somewhat or strongly approved of his move.

An overwhelming majority of voters — about 80% — said they are worried a family member will be exposed, with 52% extremely or very worried.

The online survey of 1,233 registered Georgians was conducted between April 21 and 25, shortly after Kemp announced plans to begin rolling back economic restrictions. It’s the first public statewide poll since the coronavirus restrictions took effect earlier this month. The margin of error is 3.1 percentage points.

The school’s polls are typically conducted by phone, but the school had to close its call center due to the pandemic. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution commissions its polls from the university’s School of Public and International Affairs, although this survey was conducted independently.

The survey offers a glimpse of how Georgians are reacting to drastic measures instituted over the past seven weeks to contain a pandemic that’s sickened more than 20,000 of the state’s residents and killed hundreds of them.

Support for a postponed primary

Georgians are largely divided on the steps Kemp has taken to contain the pandemic, with about 44% saying the measures are appropriate while 41% say the state hasn’t “gone far enough.” An additional 15% say the state has gone “too far,” a group composed of roughly even numbers of Democrats, Republicans and independents.

But a plurality of voters — 45% — approve of how the state is responding to the crisis, compared with about one-third that disapprove. And about half of Georgians support the way the federal government is handling the pandemic, including 71% of Republicans and about one-third of Democrats and independents. Only one-third of Georgians are satisfied with how Congress has handled the outbreak.

Georgians gave the highest marks to local governments (60%) and public health officials, who netted an approval rating from roughly two-thirds of registered voters.

Overall, about three-quarters of Georgians supported government mandates requiring “certain businesses to close,” including three-quarters of Republicans and about 85% of voters over the age of 65.

There’s even broader public support for the decision to shutter in-person classroom learning over the rest of the academic year, with 80% of Georgians saying they favor or somewhat favor the decision and 10% opposed.

Georgians also approve of the decision to postpone Georgia’s primary three weeks to June 9, with two-thirds supporting the delay and only about 7% against it. And about 60% back Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s decision to send ballot request forms to Georgia’s 6.9 million active voters.

Aftershocks

The survey paints a picture of how quickly the state’s economy has transformed under the threat of the disease. Although half of Georgians say their employment situation hasn’t changed, about one-quarter say they’re working less and 13% have lost their jobs. Of those, Democrats were slightly more likely to be out of work than Republicans or independents.

The personal behavior of Georgia voters has drastically changed, too. A majority of Georgians report increased use of masks and a ramp-up in hand washing. About one-half also say they’re more likely to stock up on groceries and other essentials. And about 60% say they’re engaging in more social distancing.

One area where behavior hasn’t yet undergone a vast overhaul: personal finances. Nearly 40% of Georgians say they’ve had no change in their personal savings habits, while about 23% are saving less.

When it comes to giving back, about one-third of Georgians say they’ve donated to charities, and smaller proportions said they bought restaurant gift cards, sewed masks or donated to food pantries.

The favorite method to support the community during the pandemic? Ordering more food from restaurants for takeout than usual. A slim majority of Georgians — 51% — reported taking that step.

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