Most in NJ backed COVID-19 measures, but now want them gone: poll
About the same percentage of New Jersey residents who thought the restrictions imposed by Gov. Phil Murphy's administration at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic were appropriate still think so a year later, but at the same time, a majority of New Jerseyans agree that it is now time to take major steps toward reopening.
According to a Monmouth University Poll released Thursday, 58% of those surveyed believe social distancing and other imposed measures were proper, compared with 64% in April 2020.
Where the numbers have noticeably shifted is among those who think Murphy's decrees have gone too far: 27% of respondents now versus just 11% then.
And while most of the questioning in this latest poll was conducted before Murphy's Monday announcements that will significantly lift indoor and outdoor capacity limits effective May 19, 73% said raising outdoor limits was a good idea, and 60% feel that way about indoor restrictions.
"Basically, New Jerseyans are saying, we approve of what Murphy did to shut down the state, and now we approve of what he's doing to reopen it, and they really are looking forward to that," Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said.
The main problem with reopening, according to Murray, is the percentage of New Jersey adults who remain hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
In the poll, 63% of respondents said they had gotten at least one vaccine dose, and 7% said they planned to as soon as they could, equal to the 70% minimum target the state has said it needs to hit for herd immunity.
But 14% still have a wait-and-see attitude, and another 14% remain opposed outright.
These are two different classifications, and should be treated as such, according to Murray. White residents and people of color said they were either hesitant or fully opposed in equal proportions, but the poll found that people of color are less likely to have already gotten a shot.
"I think that has a lot to do with the Murphy administration's move right now to take these vaccine clinics right into cities and urban areas, so people can see other community leaders getting the vaccine and feel a little bit more comfortable with it," Murray said.
As for those who remain staunchly opposed to the COVID-19 vaccine — who may not be entirely anti-vaccine, Murray conceded — that group has public officials worried.
"Do they view it as a public health issue, or do they view it as an issue of freedom, those kinds of things that are aligned with their political identity?" Murray said. "And that's going to be a harder group to overcome."
It seems that parents also want to wait and see about the vaccine's impact on children, with Pfizer reportedly soon to authorize its shots for use in kids as young as 12.
Half of New Jersey parents would support a vaccine requirement for their kids to return to school if a vaccine is made available for children, but nearly as many (46%) don't want that.
A slim majority (54%) said they wanted schools fully open for in-person learning by September.
One vaccine-related item that may not have moved the needle as much as expected was the recent pause in the Johnson & Johnson shot. Only 14% of New Jersey adults said that made them feel less comfortable about the coronavirus vaccines in general, although nearly a third (32%) said the pause negatively impacted their feeling about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine specifically.
Overall, even though New Jersey was hit hardest and earliest by COVID-19, 53% of residents feel the state has done better than others in managing the pandemic, with 23% percent saying we've done worse than elsewhere and another 23%, about the same.
"Given how unprecedented the situation was, there's no playbook for how you handle it, and so New Jersey did probably a better job considering the bigger challenges we had," Murray said.