A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Two-thirds of Kentuckians approve of Beshear’s COVID-19 efforts, 60 percent support mask mandate

By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

Kentuckians polled Oct. 7-15 gave Gov. Andy Beshear good grades for handling the coronavirus pandemic and supported the idea of state law to require wearing of masks in public.

(Graph from Spectrum Networks)

The poll, and released Oct. 21, found that 37 percent of Kentucky adults strongly approved Beshear’s handling of the crisis, with another 28 percent saying they somewhat approved, for total approval of 66 percent, with addition of decimals. Beshear’s overall approval rating was 63 percent.

Though Beshear is the most powerful person in state government, only 53 percent approved of the overall state-government handling of the pandemic, rating it excellent or good, while 41 percent rated it fair or poor. That could reflect perception of other statewide constitutional officers, such as Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who has sued to void Beshear’s emergency orders. The poll did not ask opinions of Cameron’s work on the pandemic; only 33 percent said Beshear’s orders have overstepped the authority state law gives governors.

Local governments’ response to the pandemic won approval, 51 percent to 42 percent, but only 34 percent approved the response of the Trump administration, while 60 percent disapproved. “Republicans were the only group in which at least half gave the federal response a passing grade, with 55 percent approving,” Spectrum reported.

The poll found that 45 percent said President Trump’s comments about masks and social distancing had made them less favorable toward him, while 24 percent said they had improved their favor for him.

(Graph from Spectrum Networks)

Asked if they agreed or disagreed with the statement, “There should be a state law in Kentucky mandating that masks be worn at all times in public,” 60 percent agreed, 37 percent strongly; and 33 percent disagreed, 10% strongly. Republicans were about evenly divided on the idea, while Democrats were strongly in favor of it. Beshear, who issued a mask mandate in July, is a Democrat.

The poll was taken by Ipsos Group for Spectrum Networks, which operates digital information systems, including cable news channels with state newsrooms. It surveyed 1,001 Kentucky adults online and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Asked to name the main problems facing Kentucky, 50 percent named covid-19, 39 percent mentioned drug addiction, and 34 percent said unemployment. Other results in double digits were: 24 percent health care, 22 percent crime and violence, 19 percent racial injustice, 17 percent education, 13 percent affordable housing.

Beshear recommended in early August that in-person schooling be delayed until Sept. 28, but left decisions up to local officials. Overall, Kentuckians approved of his approach, 53 percent to 37 percent. Asked if schools should have started the year with in-person learning, only 31 percent said yes and 62 percent said no.

The poll asked several questions about management of schools in the pandemic; 58 percent of adults said their local school district was doing a good job, while 27 percent said it wasn’t. Among those who have a child in the house the split was 60-30 percent, and 51 percent said they did not think their child would be safe attending school in person, while 44 percent said they would.

Asked about the statement “My child is falling behind in school because of COVID-19,” they were evenly split. “Working parents, 59 percent of whom agreed with the statement, were among those most concerned about their children’s progress in school,” Spectrum reported. “Meanwhile, only 35 percent of those who are out of work believe their children are falling behind.”

Kentuckians were pandemic’s economic effects have made it hard for them to pay their bills; 43 percent. said they have had trouble with that and 52 percent said they had not. Half of those making under $50,000 a year reported trouble, as did 55 percent of those with a child in the home. “The problem is particularly acute among those living in urban areas, 55 percent of whom cited problems with bills,” Spectrum reported. “The number falls to 44 percent in rural areas and 33 percent in the suburbs.”

Other results of the poll included:

• “All colleges and universities in Kentucky should be closed and only offer virtual classes:” 59 percent agree, 32 percent disagreed.

• “I feel comfortable dining inside a restaurant:” 46 percent agree, 48 percent disagreed.

• 3 percent said they had been tested and diagnosed with COVID-19, and 7 percent said they suspected that they have it, or have had it.

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