Watch local experts discuss the poll results on KSAT-TV:
When it comes to stopping the spread of the coronavirus or reopening the economy, a new poll shows more Bexar County voters prioritize public health.
Only 28 percent of likely voters in Bexar County are concerned that social distancing will go on too long and cause “unnecessary damage” to the economy and residents’ livelihoods, according to the Bexar Facts/KSAT/Rivard Report poll results released Tuesday.
Meanwhile, 56 percent of likely voters surveyed said they were more concerned social distancing will end too soon.
“There are lots of points in the [polling] data that suggests those are both very real concerns, but as a matter of priority, right now, the public health threats are taking precedence,” said David Metz, the survey’s pollster.
The poll was conducted online and via telephone from April 16-20 and surveyed 668 people who live in Bexar County and are likely to cast ballots in November. Likely voters on average tend to have higher levels of education, income, and be homeowners.
The poll asked residents nearly 40 questions about the coronavirus, the local economy, and the job performance of national, state, and local government officials. The results – broken down by political affiliation, ethnicity, and other demographics of the respondents – are available online here.
“Most of the trends that we’re seeing in Bexar County are pretty similar to what we’ve seen in other large urban areas,” said Metz, president and partner of FM3 Research, the California-based polling company that conducted the survey. “Much like voters nationally, they’re saying they are more concerned that we’ll ease up too soon.”
Democrats (73 percent) were more likely to prioritize mitigating the spread of COVID-19 than Republicans (38 percent). Forty-eight percent of Republicans polled said social distancing will damage the economy.
While most voters (60 percent) think the pandemic may be under control within three months, 57 percent think the economy won’t recover in that time: Most think it will take at least a year.
The survey results were released less than 24 hours after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday that some businesses, if they choose, can reopen buildings to customers at 25 percent of their capacity, including restaurant dining rooms, retail stores, movie theaters, museums, single-person offices, and libraries.
The order also applies to medical offices, but bars, hair and nail salons, gyms, and other non-medical businesses that involve close personal contact will remain closed.
“The governor was measured. … We’re not Georgia,” said Christian Archer, Bexar Facts founder and a longtime political consultant, referring to Georgia’s effort to reopen a broad range of businesses. But is reopening these businesses worth the risk?
“Clearly, the respondents of the poll say no,” Archer said.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Wolff “are in a precarious situation,” Archer said, as they need to work closely with the State, mitigate the pandemic and its economic impacts, and develop their own plans for reopening the area. The governor’s order supersedes local orders, which cannot be more strict than his.
However, poll results show that voters overwhelmingly approve of the job being done by Abbott, Nirenberg, and Wolff. Nirenberg’s job approval is at 74 percent, Abbott’s is 70 percent, Wolff’s is 71 percent. Meanwhile, 52 percent of Bexar County voters disapprove of the job President Donald Trump is doing.
Certainly if coronavirus cases and deaths increase after this phased reopening, Archer said. “I think that there will be massive backlash” against elected officials.
While nearly 60 percent of voters believe “the worst is yet to come” when it comes to the pandemic, most voters (70 percent) surveyed said they are living comfortably and can afford living expenses. However, 30 percent said they are struggling and more than one-third reported being uneasy about meeting expenses in the coming months, the poll data shows.
“It is important to recognize that we are still in the early stages of the impacts that the pandemic is going to have,” Metz said. “Obviously some of the people who are most impacted most immediately are people who are underrepresented among the voting population that we surveyed.”
The most vulnerable populations are the least likely to be registered to vote, he said.
“We may not capture the impacts on those segments of the County,” he said. “But obviously the longer this persists the more those economic impacts are going to work their way up and affect more and more middle-class residents.”
Still, there has already been an obvious impact on the voting population, especially for those with lower income and education levels.
Fifty percent of those polled said they or members of their household are considered “essential workers,” while 50 percent said they or members of their household are working from home (those surveyed could select multiple responses). Twenty-two percent reported that they or someone in their household have been laid off.
People of color are generally more concerned about their financial situation (42 percent) than white voters (28 percent), Metz said.
Overall, the coronavirus pandemic has inspired community solidarity, said Archer, who has managed several political campaigns, including for those for Pre-K 4 SA and mayoral races. Nearly 60 percent of voters said Bexar County and the City of San Antonio are moving in the “right direction” (58 and 57 percent respectively compared to 43 percent and 45 percent when the question was asked in February).
When the stay-at-home orders are lifted, 29 percent of voters said they most look forward to entertainment activities such as eating out, shopping, going to movies, and hobbies. Socializing with friends and family came in second with 26 percent.
Only 10 percent said they most look forward to getting back to work and, interestingly, 2 percent said they want to continue to stay home.
The survey has a margin of error of +/-4 percent with a 95 percent confidence level. More data from the poll can be found on the Bexar Facts website.