By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A wide majority of Wisconsin residents support requiring masks to be worn in all public places as concern about the coronavirus rises, a new Marquette University Law School poll released Tuesday showed.
The poll was conducted just days after Gov. Tony Evers issued a statewide mask mandate, which took effect Aug. 1. Coronavirus cases in Wisconsin have been increasing since mid-June and the poll shows that public worry about COVID-19 is also growing.
All told, 69% of respondents agreed that masks should be required in all public places, but Republicans were far less supportive of such a mandate than Democrats. Only 43% of Republicans supported a mask mandate, compared with 93% of Democrats. There was a majority of support for mask mandates across every region of Wisconsin, the poll shows.
Concern about the virus is at its highest level since it was first asked about in March. That month, 30% said they were “very worried” about COVID-19. That steadily dropped to 19% in June, but was back up to 27% in August.
Still, survey respondents were generally optimistic about the economy. Of the respondents, 45% said they expected it to improve over the next 12 months, 23% said it will get worse and 21% said it will remain the same.
Republicans were far more comfortable than Democrats with the prospect of letting students return to school in the fall. Seventy-four percent of Republicans said they were comfortable doing that, far more than the 18% of Democrats. All told, 45% said they were comfortable with students returning and 48% were uncomfortable.
Schools throughout the state are free to decide whether students can return to the classroom this fall or not. Most of the larger school districts, including Milwaukee and Madison, are beginning the year all online.
When it comes to how elected leaders are handling the COVID-19 outbreak, Evers fared much better than President Donald Trump.
Sixty-one percent approved of how Evers was handling the coronavirus outbreak, more than the 40% who expressed support for the policies of Trump. Evers’ general job approval rating was 57%, whereas Trump’s was 45%.
The poll comes less than three months before Election Day. Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, held a five-point lead over Trump among likely voters, a finding that’s consistent with other recent polls and the previous Marquette survey in June.
Neither candidate had strong favorability ratings. Trump was viewed favorably by 42% of respondents but unfavorably by 55%. For Biden, 43% were favorable and 48% were unfavorable.
Among the poll’s other findings:
— Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to vote absentee in November’s election — 55% to 15%. In total, 35% of registered voters said they plan to vote by mail.
— The approval rating for the protests that broke out following the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police dropped from 61% in June to 48% in August. Among the respondents, the Black Lives Matter movement was viewed favorably 49% in August, down from 59% in June.
The poll of 801 registered voters was conducted by phone from Aug. 4 through Sunday and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points. There were 675 likely voters surveyed with a margin of error of 4.2 percentage points.