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Most Americans believe the Biden administration should mandate several steps — such as requiring people to wear masks in public and banning gatherings of 10 or more people — to thwart the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the latest survey from STAT and The Harris Poll.

The poll found that 75% of the public supports the idea of mandating a mask and a similar number believe people should be required to get tested if they feel sick. At the same time, two-thirds of Americans think President-elect Biden should ban gatherings involving more than 10 people. Nearly as many — just under 60% — said the administration should temporarily close nonessential businesses such as restaurants and gyms, and mandate vaccination.

However, while Democrats were overwhelmingly in favor of each of those mandates, a majority of Republicans registered their support only for mandatory mask wearing and testing, according to the survey, which queried 2,002 people online between Dec. 11 and Dec. 13.

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And in a rebuke of President Trump, who withdrew from the World Health Organization over its response to the pandemic, 64% of Americans said they agree with Biden’s decision to reengage with — and fund — the global health agency. That show of support, too, was largely divided along party lines. The poll found that 86% of Democrats approved of the move, while 62% of Republicans said they disagreed.

At the same time, nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said they agreed with Biden’s decision to ask Anthony Fauci to serve as chief medical adviser in his administration. The idea was also favored by an overwhelming majority of Democrats — 88% said they supported the idea, compared to only 50% of Republicans who agreed.

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The results arrive amid ongoing turmoil over the response by the Trump administration to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has already killed 312,000 people in the U.S. Since March, Trump has downplayed the seriousness of the coronavirus and often contradicted many of his own public health experts, sometimes appearing to do so for political expediency.

Megan Thielking/STAT Source: STAT/The Harris Poll

Along the way, Trump prompted polarizing debate by refusing to wear a mask and arguing that schools and businesses should remain open or reopen as soon as possible after lockdowns. He also attempted to bully the Food and Drug Administration into authorizing the use of various medicines and vaccines, raising concerns that his reelection aspirations were overshadowing science.

After months of divisiveness and mixed messages, there is growing anticipation over the steps the Biden administration will take to reverse the course of the pandemic. At the same time, though, the expectations may not translate into changed behavior. For example, only 49% of Americans said they are now more likely to wear a mask, while 40% reported they will not do anything differently.

The poll also revealed some interesting differences concerning key appointments Biden plans to make, such as installing Harvard Medical School professor Rochelle Walensky to head the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — an agency largely sidelined during the Trump administration — and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to run the Department of Health and Human Services.

By and large, most Americans said these appointments would not change behaviors associated with combating Covid-19, such as wearing a mask or social distancing. However, the poll noted differences among political groups. Among Republicans, 27% of said these new appointments would prompt them to practice social distancing, compared to 54% of Democrats.

UPDATE: For those readers who inquired about methodology, we have added what Harris sent us: “For U.S. public surveys, our weight targets are based on US Census data. Per AAPOR guidelines, we don’t report on a ‘margin of error’ as online surveys are not based on probability samples. For subgroup differences (such as between white Americans vs. Black / African Americans), we conduct statistical
significance testing using a Student’s t-test at the 95% confidence level.”

  • I would be interested to know whether this is a true statistical sample. Was there a certain age range, sex, etc? What was the ratio of republicans to democrats? 2000 people seems small and I know neither my husband or I or any of my friends agree with any of these tyrannical mandates

    • Hi Deborah Meyer,

      Thanks for your note.

      In response to reader requests, we’ve added a hyperlink in the third paragraph of the story to the underlying data we received from the Harris team. You can also scroll down to the bottom of our story, where we have added a brief explanation of the methodology used. This same verbiage is at the bottom of the link I mentioned.

      Hope this helps,
      ed at pharmalot

  • You polled 2,000 people. That’s hardly 75% of Americans; that isn’t even a good sample size.

  • Mr Sullivan,
    Presenting findings without data is bad science. Failing to attribute that data is bad journalism. Which are you?

    Making a claim that 75% of the country supports something is a big statement. Any reputable pollster always provides their methodology and respondant demographics.

    Say, for example, your “2,000 people polled” are mostly democrats in the 18-24 age range (which is not unlikely, given that it was an online poll which are often skewed to younger people in areas with higher internet access ie, cities).

    In that case, your poll would not actually be representative of “75% of Americans”.

    Of course, without the backing data there is no way for anyone to know whether or not this is true. So what, are we supposed to just take your word for it?

    This has all the makings of fake news and you could easily prove me wrong by simply linking to your data.

    But you won’t, because I’m right!

    • I looked more into Harris Poll, and it turns out that FiveThirtyEight gives them a measly “C” rating among pollsters. Is this why you won’t show us the data, Ed?

      For anyone doubting this, you can independently verify my claim by searching “FiveThirtyEight Pollster Ratings”. Harris Poll’s full name is “Harris Insights and Analytics”, but just searching “Harris” should show them.

      See, I made a claim and backed it up with verifiable data. I am a better analyst than you Mr Sullivan.

    • Dear Dick,

      In response to reader requests, including yours, we’ve created a hyperlink in the third paragraph of the story to the underlying data provided by Harris.

      There is nothing to hide. We hadn’t done so until now, simply because the relationship yields exclusive data, but we are happy to make this available so there are no questions about our procedures or motives.

      You’ll also note that at the bottom of that link a brief explanation from Harris about its methodology.

      As to the ratings by FiveThirtyEight, that’s nice to know but does not disqualify Harris from assembling useful polls. Also, if you look at the footnotes, part of the ratings have been “adjusted for the type of election polled.” Well, this poll is not about an election. But on that one factor, Harris scores higher than Gallup and the NBC News/Wall Street Journal polls, even though they ranked higher overall. In any event, we have so far found Harris to be quite reliable.

      One final note – I am always happy to engage readers. I’ve been running Pharmalot – integrated as part of different media companies – for nearly 14 years. Debate and discourse can be important and, hopefully, useful. In years past, though, I’ve likened the comments section to a garden party – feel free to mingle and make as many remarks as you like. But the equivalent of throwing chairs is not welcome.

      Accusations of fake news – a weaponized tactic to disparage, not discuss – and trying to bait me with another name (not sure why Sullivan amuses you) is unnecessary and not the most mature way to have a conversation.

      Hope this helps,
      ed at pharmalot

  • Most people I know don’t…..some of my friends who voted for Biden don’t. We’re not going to be wearing masks for the rest of our lives. We will be back to a normal society where we can actually see people’s expressions and understand what they’re saying soon. Sorry, I and many others do not support this and won’t comply to regulations that are unconstitutional.

    • It would be interesting to know which clause in the Constitution you think deals with public health?

  • This poll doesn’t even show up on the Harris Poll website. What possible reason could you have for not linking to the actual source?

    Your snarky replies are not more reassuring, Ed Sullivan.

    • Well, Dick. You accuse us of fake news, and I’m snarky?

      We’ve been running exclusive polls in conjunction with Harris Poll for several weeks. But since they’re exclusive, they run here.

      And what makes you think we could attribute a poll to that company if it wasn’t legitimate. You think Harris Poll would go along with that?

      Hope this helps,
      Ed (no, not sullivan) at Pharmalot

  • Hello Dick,

    Believe it or not, the survey was conducted by the Harris Poll, a real polling firm with which we work.

    Sorry you have a hard time digesting this.

    Regards,
    Ed at pharmalot

    • Hi Eileen

      Thanks for asking.

      We typically don’t link to the Harris data, but I’m happy to answer further questions about the findings, including more complete responses from those surveyed.

      Hope this helps,
      ed at pharmalot

    • Hi Eileen,

      In response to reader requests, we’ve created a link to the underlying data we received from Harris, which can be found in hyperlink in the third paragraph.

      Hope this helps,
      ed at pharmalot

  • every where I go I see people wearing masks I think compliance is well above 90% or more the media wants only to sell eye balls here

    • Hi Geoff,

      Thanks for the note.

      Glad to hear you see so many people wearing masks, but unfortunately, this isn’t always the case everywhere.

      In any event, this is what the Harris data found. To quote Trump, “it is what it is.”

      Regards,
      Ed at pharmalot

    • Hi Vic N,

      Thanks for your note.

      This is what the Harris data found, honestly.

      Regards,
      Ed at pharmalot

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