TAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – Researchers at the University of South Florida and Florida International University have released new findings on a nationwide survey measuring public opinion on a variety of current policy issues. With recent omicron cases surging, the group focused on topics related to Covid-19, vaccine mandates, and the way opinions are shifting.

“Looking at presidential approval on Covid-19 and a host of other issues, the proposed executive order that would be a workplace mandate, we’re hearing a lot of talk from public health officials about the possibility of a domestic air travel mandate,” said Dr. Stephen Neely, an associate professor and researcher behind the study at the University of South Florida. He says a major driving force is to understand how the public feels about these issues so that decision-makers can take that into account. “It’s a matter of giving the public a voice,” he said.

Key takeaways from that research include how the pandemic is viewed.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has been very politicized. We have some folks who view Covid-19 more as a political issue than as a public health issue and we need to understand that in order to craft the appropriate messaging,” and a resurgence  of concern, he tells me, amid the omicron variant outbreak over the holidays. “We see about a third of respondents saying that it’s the most important issue facing the country today. That’s double the second-most important issue which was the economy, where about 15% of people said that.”

Correspondingly,  in a spring 2021 survey done by the United Way of Florida, 85% of respondents said that contracting Covid-19 was a concern while 62% followed with concerns of paying housing expenses like rent/mortgage and utilities.

According to USF’s research, when asked whether they feel that the worst is behind us when it comes to Covid-19, 26% agreed and said ‘yes’, while 43% said ‘no’. “And that means that this has really kind of sparked some renewed pessimism on the part of many Americans about whether or not we’re getting ahead of the pandemic and starting to put it behind us,” said Neely.

He says partisan differences also seem to be becoming more entrenched.

“Not only do we see democrats and republicans taking different positions, but they’re strong in those positions,” he said. “When we asked about the President’s proposed workplace mandate, we see 88% of democrats saying that they agree compared to only 22% of republicans. And about a third of Americans in each direction say that their opinion is very strong.”

Click here for that full research study.