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Survey: Californians fear worst is ahead with coronavirus; Newsom, vote-by-mail ballots score high

Many Californians believe the worst is yet to come with the coronavirus pandemic, while just 28% want the government to end restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the virus, according to a statewide survey released this week by the Public Policy Institute of California.

An overwhelming majority of residents also told surveyors that they support vote-by-mail options, which Gov. Gavin Newsom has mandated as a way to maintain access to the ballot while still reducing the spread of the virus during the November election.

Californians also said they’re very concerned about both the state and national economy amid fallout from the pandemic, and that they don’t approve of President Donald Trump’s performance on the issues while they do like Newsom’s.

“Gov. Newsom is receiving high marks for his handling of the COVID-19 crisis, and most Californians are surprisingly upbeat about the direction of the state,” said Mark Baldassare, president of the PPIC.

The phone survey of 1,706 adults was conducted in mid-May, just before civil unrest swept California and the nation in the wake of George Floyd dying at the hands of Minnesota police. So it’s not yet clear how the protests will affect Californians’ outlook.

But when the survey wrapped up, on May 26, 58% of adults said California was generally going in the right direction, up from 50% in January. Los Angeles area residents had the highest confidence, at 64%, while Inland Empire residents were the least optimistic, with 49% feeling confident about the state’s direction.

The coronavirus has replaced homelessness as the issue Californians are most concerned about, when comparing the latest PPIC survey to one conducted in September.

Some 58% of California adults say they fear they’ll get the coronavirus and require hospitalization. Lower income and minority residents — who are being disproportionately impacted by the disease — are much more likely to be worried, while residents of the Inland Empire and Los Angeles are more likely to be concerned about caronavirus than are their neighbors in Orange and San Diego counties.

“Californians’ perceptions and experiences with the COVID-19 crisis demonstrate the deep fault lines based on income and race and ethnicity in California today,” Baldassare said.

Though “shelter in place” orders sparked protests in Huntington Beach, Los Angeles, Rancho Cucamonga and other cities, more than seven in 10 Californians say restrictions on public activity should remain as strong or stronger than they are right now. A majority of Californians say their greater concern is that states will lift restrictions on public activity too quickly to contain the spread of the disease.

More than a third of surveyed adults said they or someone in their household has been laid off or lost their job due to the pandemic. The Inland Empire has been hit the hardest, with 42% losing jobs due to the coronavirus, compared with 40% in Los Angeles and 35% in Orange and San Diego counties

Latinos have suffered the greatest job loss, with 49% out of work compared to 24% of whites. But they are also far less likely to support reducing restrictions on public activity to quell the virus, with 17% of Latinos calling for fewer limits compared to 35% of whites.

Reuben Franco, chief executive of the Orange County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said the Latino community has been hard hit by the virus due to a combination of more high-contact jobs, such as restaurant work, and a higher propensity for underlying health conditions, such as diabetes. So, while many business owners he represents are eager to reopen their doors, he wasn’t surprised to hear of the community’s overall hesitancy to lift restrictions and greater fear of getting sick.

“You can’t blame either side for that,” Franco said.

Nearly two thirds of Californians approve of Newsom’s job performance — up from 53% in February.

Trump’s approval rating is 35% among adults — very similar to where it stood in February.

Looking to November, 57% of California’s likely voters said they plan to vote for Joe Biden for president while 33% support Trump. But the regional breakdown in Southern California is stark. Just 22% of the people surveyed in Los Angeles, and 37% of the residents in Orange County and San Diego County, back Trump, while the president gets support from 50% in the Inland Empire.

Though the idea has drawn legal challenges from Republicans, nearly three quarters of surveyed Californians approve of Newsom’s plan to send a vote-by-mail ballot to every registered voter in the state.

Orange County already started that practice during the primary, with no opposition or reports of problems. So Registrar Neal Kelley said his office won’t have to change procedures for November.

Source: Orange County Register

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