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Health Team

Poll: Resurgent virus alarms NC residents

Posted October 30, 2020 4:00 p.m. EDT
Updated October 30, 2020 7:16 p.m. EDT

— A vast majority of North Carolina residents are concerned about the recent surge of coronavirus cases in North Carolina, according to the results of a WRAL News poll released Friday.

SurveyUSA polled 800 adults statewide between Oct. 23 and Monday for the exclusive poll, which also found a clear political divide as to people's feelings about the pandemic and a potential vaccine. The responses have a credibility interval of +/-4.3 percentage points.

North Carolina reported more than 5,600 new coronavirus infections between Thursday and Friday, marking the two highest one-day totals during the eight-month pandemic. The rolling, seven-day average of new cases is 2,303 per day, also a record mark.

The state also has had more than 1,100 people hospitalized with the virus for 19 consecutive days. As of Friday, more than three-quarters of hospital beds statewide, including 81 percent of intensive care beds, were occupied.

To date, more than 4,300 North Carolinians have died in the pandemic, including 49 reported Friday.

Seventy-three percent of those polled said they were somewhat or very worried about the state's virus trend lines, while 16 percent said they weren't very worried and 8 percent said they weren't worried at all.

Similarly, a majority of respondents said the pandemic is getting worse in the state, while only 14 percent said it was getting better.

Older adults and Blacks, two groups that have been disproportionately affected by the virus, were more likely to be concerned than younger adults and other racial groups. Single parents and people who described themselves as poor also were more likely to express concerns. Meanwhile, the wealthiest residents were the most likely group to express no worries whatsoever about the rising coronavirus caseload.

The starkest split among responses was based on politics.

Eighty-nine percent of Democrats – 93 percent of presidential candidate Joe Biden's supporters – said they are worried about the surge in cases. By contrast, only 62 percent of Republicans – 56 percent of President Donald Trump's backers – expressed concern. Sixteen percent of people who voted for Trump said they have no worries at all about the resurgent virus in North Carolina, compared with only 1 percent of Biden voters.

Likewise, 92 percent of Biden voters – 89 percent of Democrats overall – reported that they have taken more precautions in the past two months to guard against the virus, compared with 69 percent of Republicans and Trump voters. Meanwhile, 10 percent of Trump supporters and 9 percent of Republicans said they're not taking any precautions at all. No Democrats or Biden voters reported taking no precautions.

Overall, 36 percent of respondents said they are now taking many more precautions, 42 percent somewhat more, 12 percent said they're taking fewer precautions than earlier in the pandemic and 5 percent reported taking no precautions at all.

Maya Kale said her family is being more careful right now.

"I think I’m going back to not going out as much and limiting non-essential things outside the house," Kale said.

But Erica Toothman said her family is taking fewer precautions now than when the outbreak started.

"Peace of mind and our mental heath is starting to take a toll, so we're really having to take calculated risks," Toothman said.

Vaccine debate marked by politics

When asked about a coronavirus vaccine, 19 percent of those polled said they would take it as soon as it's approved. Almost a third said they would want to wait a few months, and 16 percent said they would wait at least a year. Eighteen percent said they would never get vaccinated against the virus.

People are more cautious about a vaccine than when WRAL asked about it in mid-September, Then, 23 percent said they would take it immediately, 28 percent would wait a few months, 14 percent would wait a year or so and 22 percent said they would never take it.

Men, Latinos and conservatives were more likely than other groups to say in the latest poll that they would get the vaccine right away.

"I would get it as soon as I can. I don’t want to risk spreading it to anyone," Joe Wujek said Friday.

Older and younger people had different perspectives. Among people under age 50, nearly a quarter said they would never get the coronavirus vaccine. For people over 50, just 12 percent said they wouldn’t get it.

Meredith College political science professor David McLennan said he was a little surprised by the level of skepticism among younger people.

"I think a lot of it has to do with their political views," McLennan said. "The under-40 crowd does tend to lean more Democratic, so they would be suspicious of anything the president pushes."

Biden voter Amanda Boshoff didn't say never for a coronavirus vaccine, but she is concerned the issue has gotten politicized.

"I would get it when medical providers recommend that we get it, so probably not politicians but people who are infectious disease experts," Boshoff said.

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