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The vast majority of Mainers support continued restrictions on businesses and personal travel even as 19 percent of respondents said they or someone in their household had been laid off as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, according to a new poll.
The survey of nearly 320 Maine residents was conducted between April 16 and 26 by the COVID-19 Consortium, a group of researchers from Northeastern, Harvard and Rutgers universities, as part of a 50-state survey.
Maine residents, in line with national trends, mostly supported maintaining current social distancing restrictions moving forward, the poll found. Ninety-four percent “strongly” or “somewhat” approved of government measures over the next 30 days asking people to stay home, while 88 percent said they supported requiring most businesses to stay closed and 92 percent supported keeping schools closed.
At a national level, there were not significant differences on maintaining social distancing measures between people of different education levels or income brackets. There were differences, however, along partisan lines, with Republicans being more likely than Democrats to call for an economic reopening.
In Maine, only 6 percent of those surveyed said the country’s economy should be reopened immediately. Seventy-four percent thought it should not be opened for at least 4 weeks, with 26 percent saying the country should wait at least eight weeks.
Respondents in Maine also said they were largely adhering to current public health requirements. Eighty percent said they had been following public health guidelines about avoiding crowded spaces “very closely” and 17 percent said “somewhat closely.”
Mask wearing, which will be mandatory in Maine starting Friday, was less common, however; with 48 percent said they followed guidelines about wearing a mask “very closely.” Eighteen percent said “somewhat closely,” while 14 percent said “not closely” and 20 percent said “not at all.” Those behaviors might stem from a fear of contracting the virus or giving it to someone else.
Seventy-two percent of Maine respondents said they were “very” or “somewhat” concerned about personally contracting coronavirus, while 82 percent said they were concerned about a family member getting it. Support for public health measures came in spite of concern about the economic effects of the virus.
Overall, 60 percent of Mainers said they were “very” or “somewhat” concerned about experiencing financial hardships due to the virus. One third of Maine respondents had been affected by layoffs, with 19 percent saying they or someone in their household had been laid off or lost a job, while 14 percent saw a cut in pay or hours.
As with a Critical Insights poll published earlier this month, Mainers indicated that they trusted the state government to respond to the crisis better than its federal counterpart. Forty percent said the federal government was not taking the outbreak seriously enough, while 54 percent said it was reacting about right.
Only 8 percent said the state government was not taking the outbreak seriously enough, while 80 percent approved of its response and 12 percent thought the state was overreacting.
Gov. Janet Mills remained popular, with 72 percent “somewhat” or “strongly” approving of the Democrat’s handling of the outbreak, compared with only 45 percent for President Donald Trump among Mainers. The poll was completed before she announced a phased-in reopening plan on Tuesday that would keep many businesses closed into the summer.
Nearly nine in 10 Maine respondents trusted the state government to handle the coronavirus outbreak “some” or “a lot,” while only 60 percent said they trusted the White House, 53 percent said they trusted Trump and 52 percent trusted Congress. Fifty-four percent said they trusted former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee.
Hospitals and doctors were by far the most trusted group, with 76 percent of Maine respondents saying they had “a lot” of trust while only 2 percent said “not much” or “not at all.”
Those surveyed in Maine showed less trust in media organizations, with 45 percent saying they trusted the news media “some,” while 10 percent said “a lot” and 34 percent said “not much” or “not at all.” Nonetheless, 83 percent of respondents felt informed about the state of the outbreak and 95 percent said steps they could take to protect themselves.
Mainers also did not have full confidence in their neighbors, the poll found. Half of respondents said ordinary people were not taking the outbreak seriously enough, while 25 percent said they were reacting about right and 15 percent said they were overreacting.
Watch: Janet Mills outlines her plan to reopen