Exclusive poll: Many not ready to return to restaurants, gyms during COVID-19 pandemic

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BROOKHAVEN, GA – APRIL 27: Barry Lennon, Operating Partner of J. Christopher, hangs up signs to to promote dine in service now available in the J. Christopher restaurant on April 27, 2020 in Brookhaven, Georgia. Gov. Brian Kemp has allowed some non-essential businesses to start re-opening in Georgia amid the COVID-19 Pandemic. As of Monday, restaurants around Georgia are allowed to offer dine-in service. Non-essential businesses allowed to start reopening are restaurants, movie theaters, tattoo shops, salons, gyms and nail salons. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

DALLAS, Texas (NEXSTAR) — While most of the country has started the process of reopening, a majority of people surveyed in three U.S. states aren’t yet ready to return to restaurants and gyms, according to new polling from Nexstar Media Group and Emerson College. People in Texas, California and Ohio indicated they aren’t ready to return to places they frequented prior to the pandemic — even with social distancing and other precautions in place.

In California, 65% said they would not feel comfortable going to a restaurant with some spacing precautions. Similarly, 60% of surveyed Texans weren’t ready to dine-in.

To contrast, a majority of people in Ohio are more ready to return to restaurants. Of those surveyed, 51% said they were comfortable returning to restaurants with precautions.

While they might be comfortable with in-person dining, Ohioans are not ready to return to gyms — even with spacing precautions. Of those surveyed, 57% weren’t comfortable going to a fitness center. In Texas, that figure is even higher at 68%. And in California, the number jumped to 75% of people surveyed.

It’s worth noting that a majority of people in all three states felt comfortable going to a beach or park with spacing precautions.

Job Market

The Nexstar-Emerson poll also showed the impact the coronavirus has had on the job market. In California, 1 in 3 surveyed said someone in their household lost their job as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Texas, the figure was roughly 1 in 4 and decreased to 1 in 5 in Ohio.

When asked if those with jobs were comfortable returning to work, the top responses were that employees were willing to return to work under any circumstances and that workers were willing to return if their co-workers were wearing face masks.

Politics and the Pandemic

Nearly half of those surveyed in Texas and Ohio approve of the job Donald Trump is doing as the U.S. president. That was not the case in California, where 59% of those surveyed say they don’t approve of his work in the oval office.

When looking ahead to the presidential race in 2020, two things stand out: voters are split on who they plan to vote for and who they believe will win the race. One thing in common between the three states surveyed is that voters aren’t overly excited about Joe Biden as a candidate. Even in California, where those surveyed plan to vote for him over Trump, 52% of respondents say they’re not that excited or just mildly excited about supporting Biden. In both Texas and Ohio, the figure jumps to around 60%.

When looking at potential running mates, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris jumped out of the pack with the majority of support as a potential vice presidential candidate. However, a number of people also think Biden will select someone not considered a front-runner in the race.

It may be no surprise that the economy is the main issue voters will look at when deciding their choice for president, according to the poll. The second driving force is someone who can beat Donald Trump, followed by health care.

And how would people prefer to vote for president in November? Those surveyed in all three states support voting by mail over voting in person, with California showing the most support for voting by mail at 76%.

Facing an array of unknowns from the coronavirus, California already has plans in motion to send every voter a mail-in ballot for the November presidential election. However, in-person voting places will remain available for those who might need them. But it wasn’t clear how many.

The Republican National Committee is warning that sending millions of ballots through the mail could lead to abuse and is considering legal options. Democratic Secretary of State Alex Padilla says the decision is good for public health and voting rights.

About the Poll

The Nexstar Media / Emerson College polls were conducted in Texas and Ohio May 8-10, 2020 and in California May 8-9, 2020.

The sample for the Texas poll consisted of registered Democratic, Republican, and Independent voters, n=800, with a Credibility Interval (CI) similar to a poll’s margin of error (MOE) of +/- 3.4 percentage points. 

The sample for the Ohio poll consisted of registered Democratic, Republican, and Independent voters, n=725, with a Credibility Interval (CI) similar to a poll’s margin of error (MOE) of +/- 3.5 percentage points. 

The sample for the California poll consisted of registered Democratic, Republican, and Independent voters, n=800, with a Credibility Interval (CI) similar to a poll’s margin of error (MOE) of +/- 3.4 percentage points.

The data sets were weighted by gender, education, party affiliation, age, ethnicity, education, and region. It is important to remember that subsets based on gender, age, party breakdown, ethnicity, and region carry with them higher margins of error, as the sample size is reduced. Data was collected using an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system of landlines and an online panel.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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