Support slips for Evers’ ‘Safer at Home’ order, but majority still say it’s appropriate, MU Law poll finds

Gov. Tony Evers
Gov. Tony Evers

A strong majority of Wisconsinites still see Gov. Tony Evers’ “Safer at Home” order as an appropriate responses to the coronavirus outbreak, but a growing number see it as an overreaction, according to the latest Marquette University Law School poll.

In a late March poll, 86% of respondents said the governor’s “Safer at Home” order closing schools and businesses and restricting public gatherings was the appropriate response. In the latest poll, conducted May 3 to May 7, that number fell to 69% while the number describing it as an overreaction grew from 10% to 26%.

The poll, which surveyed 811 registered voters in the state, also found 77% of respondents would be comfortable visiting a close friend or family member if the order was lifted tomorrow, 56% would be comfortable going to a large retail store, 45% would be comfortable going to worship services, 42% would be comfortable eating out at a restaurant and just 25% would be comfortable at a sporting event, concert or play.

“You can open the door, but if the public doesn’t show up, it won’t restart the economy,” said Charles Franklin, director of the poll.

Just 16% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said the “Safer at Home” order was an overreaction in March, but that number jumped to 45% in the current poll.

Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents saw little change with 90% describing it as an appropriate action compared to 94% in the previous poll.

Those who describe themselves as truly independent from political parties were slightly more skeptical of the order. The number viewing it as an overreaction was up from 19% to 22% but the number calling it an appropriate response dropped from 79% to 69% with more saying they don’t know how to characterize the order.

“Where a lot of that change (in support for “Safer at Home”) is coming from is there was very little polarization (of the issue) by party in March,” Franklin said.

The order also lost support across all media markets in the state with the largest shift coming in the Green Bay and Appleton market. Despite significant COVID-19 outbreaks in Brown County, the number of respondents viewing the order as an overreaction jumped 23 percentage points to 30%.

Madison saw a 10-point increase to 20% while the city of Milwaukee saw a 9-point increase to 18%. The rest of the Milwaukee market saw a 19-point increase in overreaction responses to 31%.

A majority, 56%, said they are more concerned about the state opening up too soon while 40% said they’re worried the state won’t open up soon enough.

That question also showed the growing partisan split on how to respond to the virus. Among Democrats, 84% said they are worried about opening too soon, while 69% of Republicans were concerned the state wouldn’t open soon enough.

The division continued across geographies as well. In the city of Milwaukee, 74% were worried about opening too soon while 23% were worried the state wouldn’t open soon enough. The rest of the Milwaukee market with 54% concerned about opening too soon and 43% worried opening would take too long.

The Green Bay and Appleton market saw a majority concerned the state wouldn’t open soon enough at 50% while 46% were worried about opening too soon.

Get more news and insight in the April 27 issue of BizTimes Milwaukee. Subscribe to get updates in your inbox here.

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Arthur Thomas
Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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