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a Black woman wearing a mask opens the door to an office building [View Image] A large majority of Virginians say they are concerned that new COVID-19 variants will lead to a worsening pandemic in their local community. (Getty Images)

Poll: Majority of Virginians support mask mandates

Virginians indicate concern that new COVID-19 variants will lead to a worsening pandemic.

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CONTACTS:
L. Douglas Wilder
Distinguished Professor                                                                     
Phone: (804) 827-0776
Email: ldwilder@vcu.edu

Robyn McDougle
Associate Dean of Research and Outreach               
Phone: (804) 721-6703
Email: rdmcdougle@vcu.edu

A large majority of Virginians (75%) indicated they are concerned that new COVID-19 variants will lead to a worsening pandemic in their local community, according to a new statewide poll conducted by the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University.

On Aug. 12, the Virginia health commissioner issued an emergency statewide requirement to wear masks in K-12 schools. A majority of Virginians (71%) support this mandate. A smaller majority (57%) indicate that they would support a federal mandate requiring masks to be worn indoors. 

The poll featured landline and mobile telephone interviews from Sept. 7-15 with a representative sample of 811 adults living in Virginia. It has a margin of error of 5.35%. 

There is a wide divide among Democrats, Republicans and independents on concern that new COVID-19 variants will lead to a worsening of the pandemic in their communities, with 93% of Democrats indicating concern, compared to 68% of independents and 58% of Republicans. 

Democrats (87%) are more supportive of a federal mandate requiring masks indoors than Republicans (24%) or independents (60%). White, non-Hispanic Virginians were less likely to support a federal mask mandate than minority and/or Hispanic Virginians (49% to 70%, respectively). Female respondents were more supportive of a mask mandate than male respondents (62% to 51%).  

Similarly, Democrats (94%) are also more supportive of the Virginia health commissioner’s recent mandate for masks in K-12 schools, compared to Republicans (43%) and independents (80%). Minority and/or Hispanic Virginians again were more supportive than white, non-Hispanic Virginians (83% to 64%).  

Support for public funding to historically Black colleges and universities

Just under 1 in 5 Virginians are aware of how funding is provided to Virginia’s historically Black colleges and universities (19%). Among those who are, 73% approve of increasing direct public funding to the schools. Twenty-two percent of these respondents disapprove of direct public funding.

Democrats (92%) are much more likely than Republicans (57%) to support increasing direct public funding to all of Virginia’s historically Black colleges and universities among those who are aware of how public funding is provided.

“The polling as it relates to funding for HBCUs is not surprising. There has been little advocacy in Virginia relative to the historical inadequate funding and that in and of itself is inadequate,” said former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder.

Perceptions of state spending

Of the poll respondents who felt they had enough information to comment on the $4.5 billion of COVID-19 relief funds received by Virginia from the federal government, just over half were aware that the money was allocated by the General Assembly without debate or public comment (51%). These same individuals were more likely to approve (65%) than disapprove (31%) of the way $3.5 billion of these funds were spent. However, they were less likely to approve of the fact that the remaining $1 billion was allocated to Gov. Ralph Northam to spend at his discretion without debate or public comment (50% approve, 46% disapprove).

For the full poll results and analysis, visit https://rampages.us/commonwealthpoll/

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