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As the Omicron wave of COVID-19 fades, voters are feeling hopeful again about the novel virus being contained.
Thirty-six percent say coronavirus is “completely” or “mostly” under control, the second-highest number recorded since the pandemic started, trailing the 46% who felt that way last May. Still, 43 percent feel it is only somewhat under control while 19% say it is “not at all.”
Those numbers are better than last month, when 22% felt the virus was completely/mostly under control, 37% said it was “somewhat” under control, and 41% “not at all” (January 16-19, 2022).
That’s according to the latest Fox News national survey, released Thursday.
With more optimism that things are improving comes more interest in unmasking — though voters’ opinions on the need for mask mandates varies substantially in different settings.
By a 9-point margin, registered voters think it is time to remove mask mandates for employees/customers in restaurants and businesses (53% remove vs. 44% keep). By a narrower 4-point margin, more think it is time to stop requiring that students wear masks in schools (50% remove vs. 46% keep). Travel is an entirely different matter, as voters want mask mandates to remain for travelers on planes and trains by 19 points (39% remove vs. 58% keep).
The partisan divide is intact, as majorities of Republicans think mask mandates should end in each scenario, while majorities of Democrats say masks should stay on.
When it comes to mask mandates in schools, there is discord in the home: moms want students to keep masks on by 8 points, while dads think it is time to take them off by 13 points.
“Americans are clearly getting tired of the pandemic and mask mandates, but support for public health mandates remains reasonably high and varies considerably depending upon context,” says Republican Daron Shaw who conducts the Fox News poll with Democrat Chris Anderson. “Democratic support for these measures is still high, and presumably is what’s keeping President Biden’s overall support in the 40s.”
While Biden’s approval rating on coronavirus remains his best, he is still underwater by four points (47% approve vs. 51% disapprove). That’s a far cry from last summer when he was in positive territory by 30 points (64%-34%, June and May 2021).
His ratings are worse on climate change (-6 points), foreign policy (-20), uniting the country (-20), the economy (-24), crime (-24), and immigration (-28).
Biden’s overall job rating is at a new low: 43% approve vs. 56% disapprove.
White House chief medical adviser and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci’s approval rating on the virus has also declined. He now stands at 52% approve vs. 46% disapprove. In May 2021 (the last time the question was asked), 60% approved — still, that is down significantly from his prior high of 80% at the start of the pandemic (April 2020).
Fauci saw one of his biggest declines among Republicans: 33% approved of him last May compared to just 20% today. Democrats held steady in their approval (88% in May vs. 87% today).
Vaccinating: Freedom vs. safety
The new survey also asks how voters balance two competing priorities: freedom and public safety.
The result? Almost even.
Just over half of voters, 51%, say it is more important to protect the freedom to choose whether or not to get vaccinated. Slightly fewer, 46%, think it is more important to protect public safety by requiring vaccination to participate in everyday activities.
In August, the narrow preference went in the opposite direction by 3 points: 50% prioritized protecting Americans’ safety vs. 47% protecting their freedom to choose.
Most Democrats (76%) say protecting safety is more important, while for majorities of Republicans (78%) and independents (55%) the priority is protecting freedom.
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Conducted Feb. 19-22, 2022, under the joint direction of Beacon Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R), this Fox News Poll includes interviews with 1,001 registered voters nationwide who were randomly selected from a national voter file and spoke with live interviewers on both landlines and cellphones. The total sample has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.
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