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Pandemic poll: Majority of San Antonio voters worried social distancing will end too soon, believe ‘worst is yet to come’

Mayor Ron Nirenberg, County Judge Nelson Wolff get high ratings for response

SAN ANTONIOEditor’s note: Hear more about the new Bexar Facts-KSAT12-Rivard Report poll by tuning into our livestream at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday and 6:30 p.m. Wednesday on KSAT.com, where anchor Steve Spriester will break down the results with local experts. More stories about the poll will follow.

By a 2-to-1 margin, likely San Antonio-area voters are more concerned that social distancing restrictions will end too soon rather than go on too long, according to a new poll released Tuesday by Bexar Facts, in partnership with KSAT12 and The Rivard Report.

Nearly 60% of likely Bexar County voters said they believe the “worst is yet to come,” compared to 31% who believe the worst has passed, the Bexar Facts-KSAT12-Rivard Report poll found.

Three out of four said they are seriously concerned about the spread of the coronavirus, business closures and unemployment. Still, nearly three times as many are more worried about catching the virus than losing their job or income, according to the poll.

“The coronavirus threatens both the health and livelihoods of Bexar County residents, and local voters are worried about both. But for now – like voters elsewhere in the nation – Bexar County voters weigh the risks to health as greater than the risks to the economy,” said Dave Metz, president of FM3 Research, the firm that conducted the online and phone survey.

RELATED: San Antonians are most looking forward to returning to these activities

More concern about social distancing ending too soon rather than go on too long.
More concern about social distancing ending too soon rather than go on too long. (Bexar Facts)

The poll is the first public opinion measure conducted locally since the pandemic began and was the second of 2020 released by the Bexar Facts partnership. It was conducted from April 16 to April 20, about a week before Governor Greg Abbott announced his plan to allow many businesses to reopen by Friday, effectively superseding local ordinances.

One thing voters were very clear about: They support how local leaders and government agencies have responded to the pandemic.

For San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, 74% said they approved of his response to the pandemic so far, while 19% said they disapproved. Wolff’s approval numbers were similar: 71% like the job he’s doing and 14% disapprove.

Nirenberg and Wolff have spent more time in the public eye in recent weeks through daily televised updates. Constituents reacted positively to how Nirenberg and Wolff acted early and swiftly to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, issuing shelter-at-home orders and closing non-essential businesses and activities on March 23.

Experts have said their “early response prevented an explosion in the number of cases."

"Had the Mayor and County Judge not acted early, the crisis would have been significantly larger,” wrote Dr. Juan Gutierrez, the chair of mathematics at UTSA who created a COVID-19 model for the local health department.

Comparing approval ratings to the February poll results shows that both politicians have seen a double-digit increase. A similar double-digit increase was seen in April of the percentage of people who believe the city and county are “heading in the right direction.”

Is the city, county moving in the right direction?
Is the city, county moving in the right direction? (Bexar Facts)

“There is much to still unpack from the Bexar Facts Poll results, but what’s crystal clear to me is the impact of the Mayor and County Judge’s leadership ability,” said Christian Archer, founder of Bexar Facts. "I believe it’s safe to say that they both have the public’s trust with handling the pandemic moving forward.”

That sentiment was echoed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who said last week that Bexar County and San Antonio are “doing a good job of slowing the spread” and that he believes the peak has passed here.

The poll found similar approval ratings for Abbott among registered Bexar County voters: 70% say they approve of the job he’s done.

How the coronavirus has impacted San Antonio

More than a month into the pandemic, the poll provides a snapshot into how people in the greater San Antonio area have been pummeled financially.

More than 20 percent said they or someone in their household has been laid off and nearly 40 percent said they or the family member are working fewer hours.

Bexar Facts poll. April 2020
Bexar Facts poll. April 2020 (KSAT)

Almost two out of five Bexar County voters said they are “very uneasy” or “somewhat uneasy” about being able to meet their living expenses in the next month.

Bexar Facts poll. April 2020
Bexar Facts poll. April 2020

One out of three said they had lost a significant amount of household income.

Ten percent of Bexar County voters said they had relied on assistance from the food bank or another nonprofit during the pandemic, which will immediately remind some readers of the miles-long lines of cars at the San Antonio Food Bank distribution site earlier this month.

Coronavirus impacts
Coronavirus impacts (KSAT)

Nearly 80% said they believe unemployment is an extremely serious or very serious problem. Nine out of 10 said they would support government programs to stimulate business for small companies, job training and job placement assistance.

People view some issues now as more serious than before the coronavirus.

Since the first poll was conducted in February, there have been roughly 10-point increases in concern about economic issues like health care costs, housing costs, low wages and property taxes, said Metz.

But it isn’t just the economy. More than three out of four said child abuse, domestic violence and the cost of health care are “extremely” or “very serious" problems facing the community.

Poll respondents were asked to give one answer to an open-ended question: What is the most serious problem facing the greater San Antonio area that you would like to see the local government do something about?

One in 10 — more than any other response — said homelessness. By comparison, eight percent cited the coronavirus.

The poll included responses from 668 registered Bexar County voters of different income and education levels, race, age, gender and political party affiliation. Four out of five respondents answered in English, while one out of five answered in Spanish. The poll’s margin of error is 4%.

Didn’t get called for the poll, but still want to have your voice heard? Take the poll, via Bexar Facts, here.

See the full poll below:


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