Wisconsin is still grappling with how to approach school and business closings, soaring unemployment, and a still-deadly virus that could overwhelm hospitals. But a majority of Wisconsinites support COVID-19 restrictions, according to the latest Marquette Law School poll that was released on Tuesday.
How Wisconsinites feel about the coronavirus pandemic was the central question in this month’s poll, along with finding out how people are doing economically. The poll surveyed more than 800 registered voters in Wisconsin from May 3-7.
Almost 70% say it was appropriate to close schools and businesses and restrict public gatherings, while about one-quarter say this was an overreaction to the pandemic. In late March, 86% of those polled said closures were appropriate, and 10% said this was an overreaction.
A lot of that change is coming from political polarization. There was very little polarization by party in March. At that point, more than 75% of the Republicans surveyed supported the shutdown. But now, Republicans are about evenly divided on whether they support the shutdown or not.
At the same time, more than 90% of Democrats are in favor of the shutdown.
The poll also found that people thought it would take more time for the virus to be under control and for society to get back to normal. In March, 71% of people surveyed thought life would be back to normal by August. Now, just under 40% feel that way.
Director of the Marquette Law School Poll Charles Franklin says people are more divided.
"People are getting more anxious, and especially with parties pushing them in different directions," he says. "But the idea that we could be finished with this by May or even August is really evaporating as people see this as a much longer problem.”
What do people think of Gov. Tony Evers’ handling of the coronavirus? A solid 64% approve of Evers' response, while 32% disapprove. However, it is down from March, when about three-quarters approved of Evers’ handling of the pandemic and 17% disapproved.
"Likewise, [Evers'] overall job approval is at 59% this month. That's down from about 65% six weeks ago. So, you've seen some declines. They are still very solid majorities by all the normal metrics, and they're considerably higher than where he was before the epidemic broke out," Franklin says.
Approval of President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak has also declined, to 44%, with 51% disapproval. In March, approval was at 51% and disapproval was at 46%.
The coronavirus has had a huge economic impact, with unemployment claims have skyrocketed. But it’s been African Americans who've been hit the hardest. Overall, 15% of people say they’ve lost a job — 30% of African Americans lost jobs. Whites are below average at 11%, and the Latino population is between blacks and whites.
Franklin says these are consequences we’ll see affecting the Milwaukee region going forward.