Millsaps College/Chism Strategies State of the State Survey: COVID Crisis Causing Rising Concern Among Voters; 75% Back Special Legislative Session

The rapidly escalating COVID-19 crisis fueled by the Delta Variant, Mississippi’s near lowest-in-the nation vaccination rate and insufficient masking and preventative efforts are causing deep concern among the state’s electorate. There has been a sharp uptick in concern about the state’s direction, with nearly 50% saying the state is heading in the wrong direction and just 32% the right direction.

There are two areas of general agreement among Mississippi voters, however, with 75% backing a special legislative session to disperse the $1.8 billion in federal COVID relief funds awarded to the state and 56% who say children under 12 who are not able to be vaccinated should be wearing masks in school this fall.

The 16th quarterly Millsaps College/Chism Strategies State of the State Survey found that, despite these challenges, nearly 30% of Mississippi voters still say they do not plan to ever get vaccinated against COVID-19, 24% rarely or never wear masks in crowded public places and significant majorities oppose any form of restrictions against the unvaccinated or preferences for the vaccinated, even when it comes to receiving emergency medical care.

“Mississippi is facing what is arguably the greatest public health challenge in its history, and we are seeing some resistance to calls from public health officials for citizens to receive the COVID-19 vaccination,” said Dr. Nathan R. Shrader, chair of the Department of Government and Politics and director of American Studies at Millsaps College. “Voters—even those who are vaccinated—are unwilling to impose a range of punitive measures towards those who are behaving irresponsibly, even though nearly 65% of voters say they are concerned about being able to receive emergency medical care due to ICU wards and emergency rooms crammed with COVID patients who are chiefly unvaccinated.”

The latest survey also determined that 28% of unvaccinated Mississippi voters have not been vaccinated because they don’t believe the vaccine is safe or effective, 23% say they don’t trust the government and 22% are still waiting to see how the vaccine affects other people before getting it themselves. 24% of Mississippi voters also say they rarely or never wear masks in crowded public places, with over half of these individuals saying they don’t believe masks work to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Other Key Findings:

  • 47% of Mississippi voters say the state is heading in the wrong direction, while just 32% say we are heading in the right direction. This is a substantial drop from the Summer 2021 quarterly survey where voters were nearly evenly split on the state’s general direction.
  • 40% of voters say either they or someone in their household has tested positive for COVID-19.
  • 58% of registered voters in Mississippi have been vaccinated for COVID. This number includes only those who are 18 and older and thus more likely than 12-17-year olds to be vaccinated.
  • 57% of voters wear masks in crowded public places all or almost all the time, 24% rarely or never wear them in these places and 19% sometimes wear them.
  • 38% say no government authority or government official should be allowed to mandate mask wearing, while 25% believe their local elected officials should be allowed to do so. Just 19% support the governor having this power, 13% the federal government and 5% the state legislature.
  • 56% believe children under 12 who are not able to be vaccinated should be required to wear masks in school this fall, while 32% are opposed.
  • Voters are split on whether private businesses whose employees interact directly with the public should be allowed to require employees to get vaccinated: 43% say yes and 46% say no.
  • 52% say private businesses should not be allowed to require customers to show proof they have been vaccinated before entering places like movie theaters, restaurants, stores, and concert venues; just 40% support such measures.
  • 75% do not believe overcrowded hospitals should be able to deny admission to COVID patients who had refused to get vaccinated, while 16% think they should.
  • Only 25% believe hospitals and emergency rooms should give priority in the emergency rooms and intensive care units to people who have been vaccinated for COVID over those who have refused. Nearly 60% are opposed.
  • 72% oppose allowing health insurance companies to deny coverage for COVID-related hospital costs for those who had refused to get vaccinated, compared to just 18% in support.

“This survey confirms the quandary our elected officials face—a major health care crisis with an electorate very divided on its severity and the appropriate steps state and local governments should take in response. We applaud Millsaps College for asking these tough questions and accurately conveying the mood of the electorate, however troubling. The governor, state lawmakers and local school boards will benefit from a careful reading of the survey report,” said Brad Chism, president of Chism Strategies.

The survey was conducted on August 20, 2021 with a sample size of 684 voters; 48% of interviews were conducted via cell phone and 52% via landline. The survey has a Margin of Error of +/-3.82%. Results were weighted to reflect voter turnout for the 2020 Mississippi elections. In addition, we weighted results to ensure that the opinions of the unvaccinated were represented in proportion to their ratio of adults in Mississippi.

Read the full detailed report here.

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