Iowans do not agree with their state’s overall plans to reopen large sections of the economy starting tomorrow, a sweeping new national poll of the public’s thoughts on the coronavirus shows. And Gov. Kim Reynolds’ handling of the pandemic rates among the lowest for U.S. governors, above only five others who also resisted calls to implement stricter measures earlier.
The good news for Reynolds is that a 54% majority of Iowans still approve of her overall handling of the COVID-19 outbreak. But it’s notable how poorly that fares in comparison to other governors, many of whom are seeing their approval soaring at the moment, as captured in this 50-state poll from Northeastern University, Harvard University and Rutgers University.
In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine, who took decisive early action during the pandemic, has an approval of 83% for handling the coronavirus situation. Kentucky’s Andy Beshear, a Democrat leading a conservative state, is at 81% approval. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz earns a 72% approval rating.
The only governors that saw approval ratings below Reynolds’ are Alaska’s Mike Dunleavy, Florida’s Ron DeSantis, Hawaii’s David Ige, Oklahoma’s Kevin Sitt and South Dakota’s Kristi Noem.
In times of crisis, people often rally around their elected leaders, even moreso for those who represent them at a more local level. President Trump lags every single governor’s approval in this poll (he’s at 46% approval in the poll for Iowa), and his national approval ratings are weak compared to leaders around the globe. As Vox wrote today, international leaders like Angela Merkel, Justin Trudeau, Scott Morrison (Australia) and Boris Johnson have all seen double-digit bumps in their approvals. They show Trump’s numbers improving by only three points.
Though this is obviously a different poll with different methodologies, it’s noteworthy that Reynolds’ 54% here is the same as her 54% approval rating in a Des Moines Register poll in early March, right as the state recorded its first confirmed COVID-19 cases. In one of the worst crisis the state has ever faced, Reynolds has clearly failed to bring Iowans together in a way that so many other states that took swifter action have.
The poll was conducted from April 17 to 26, so it was mostly before Reynolds announced the plan to loosen restrictions on large swaths of the state starting tomorrow. It surveyed 22,912 individuals across the country, including 471 in Iowa.
The poll questions were extensive — it takes quite some time to sift through it all. But the answers are a fascinating look into how residents of different states are judging their leaders and what they’d prefer to see their state government do.
In Iowa, 32% say the state government is not taking the situation seriously enough, tied with Florida for the second-worst in the entire country, with only South Dakota rating higher at 35%. Just 8% say that Iowa is overreacting to the outbreak (a sentiment that some 4th District Republican candidates were sympathetic to), one of the lowest in the nation. For comparison, just 7% of both Minnesota and Wisconsin residents thought their state wasn’t taking it seriously enough. Still, 60% of Iowans felt the state was “reacting about right.”
How Iowans feel about specific coronavirus restrictions may have a significant connection to why Reynolds fares so poorly compared to most governors:
- 66% strongly approve and 26% somewhat approve of the government asking people to stay at home
- 46% strongly approve and 35% somewhat approve of requiring most businesses to close
- 62% strongly approve and 28% somewhat approve of restaurants being limited to carry-out only, despite Reynolds’ constant insistence that Iowans are eager to go back to “their favorite restaurants”
But the most interesting response came from when Iowans were given potential timelines of when the state should reopen. Here’s the amount that supported each timeframe (keep in mind this poll ran from April 17 to 26) for when Iowa should “reopen the economy and resume business activity”:
- 6% Immediately
- 12% In the next two weeks
- 17% After two to four weeks
- 23% After four to six weeks
- 17% After six to eight weeks
- 24% After more than eight weeks
That’s a full 64% who believe the state shouldn’t reopen until mid- to late-May (depending on when they took the poll) or mid-summer.
And while Reynolds has told Iowans in recent weeks that COVID-19 was now a fact of life that the state will have to learn to live with for some time, many Iowans are still fearful they could contract the virus. 37% of Iowans said they were somewhat concerned and 23% were very concerned that they might contract the coronavirus themselves. Another 40% of Iowans were very concerned and 36% were somewhat concerned that one of their family members might get infected.
The poll also asked a series of quesitons on what precautions they personally were taking, like washing hands or staying away from people or crowds.
On the topic of wearing masks/face coverings in public, just 37% said they were “very closely” following the recommendations to do so. Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were the only states that ranked lower on that scale.
As mentioned, there are many, many, many other interesting findings in the lengthy poll that could be useful for Iowa leaders.
Here’s one last number to leave you with. Throughout Iowa’s handling of the pandemic, several mayors and city/county officials have clashed with Reynolds, requesting a local shelter-in-place order or assistance in shutting down a meatpacking plant experiencing an uncontrolled outbreak, all of which has been turned down by the Governor. This poll has 78% of Iowans approving of how their city government is handling the coronavirus.
by Pat Rynard
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