By David Jacobs | The Center Square
An LSU survey found a stark partisan divide among Louisiana residents over whether public health or the economy are more important when it comes to restrictions meant to control the spread of COVID-19.
Most Democrats (89 percent) support continuing restrictions even at an economic cost, while most Republicans (68 percent) support easing restrictions for the sake of the economy even if it comes at a health cost, researchers found.
The split is apparent among Louisiana legislators. While even many Republicans have praised Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ handling of the public health crisis since March, many members of the GOP have accused the administration of dragging its feet in loosening business restrictions after it became apparent the state’s health care infrastructure no longer was on pace to be overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.
Republicans also have called for all businesses to have the same rules as restrictions are lifted, despite federal and state public health officials saying different types of businesses present different levels of risk. And during the legislative session, Democrats generally have been wearing masks in hopes of reducing their chances of spreading the virus to others, as federal and state guidelines recommend, while some Republicans have not.
According to the survey by LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication, about 42 percent of Louisiana residents know someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, while 23 percent know someone who has died from complications related to the illness. Approximately half of black residents (49 percent) know someone who tested positive, while 39 percent of white residents do. Forty percent of black residents know someone who has died from complications related to COVID-19, compared to 17 percent of white respondents.
Louisiana officials say about 53 percent of the state’s COVID-19 patients who have died were black, compared to about 33 percent of the overall population.
People are leaving their homes more often as the state’s “stay at home” restrictions have been loosened, though many remain uncomfortable about activities outside the home. A majority of state residents say they are uncomfortable getting on an airplane (77 percent), going to a large sports or entertainment event (75 percent), eating out at a restaurant (60 percent), going to a barber shop or hair salon (56 percent), and going to a retail clothing store (54 percent).
However, a majority of residents are comfortable going to a grocery store (67 percent), going to parks (63 percent) and visiting friends (58 percent). The combined share of respondents who say they either always or very often wear face coverings when outside the home (62 percent) is an increase from April when only 48 percent said they wore a face covering very often or always.
Michael Henderson, director of LSU’s Public Policy Research Lab, and Martin Johnson, dean of the Manship School, conducted the survey with internet-based market research and data analytics firm YouGov, re-interviewing 757 Louisiana residents age 18 or older from across the state May 20-June 1, the school said. Each respondent was previously interviewed April 15-28.
“This survey shows just how widespread the pandemic’s impact has been on the physical and mental health as well as the economic well-being of residents of Louisiana,” Henderson said. “Many remain concerned about these impacts and are approaching the reopening of the state cautiously.”