Texans React to Lifting of COVID-19 Restrictions

Hobby School Survey Finds Significant Differences by Gender, Partisanship and Ethnicity/Race

mask in hand

On March 10, Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order GA-34 went into effect across Texas, lifting the COVID-19 mask mandate and dramatically expanding business occupancy. In an effort to capture public opinion about the executive order, the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston conducted the first study, polling 1,500 Texans, 18 years and older.

Among the findings, more than half of Texans – 56% – oppose the decision to end the statewide mask mandate while 37% support it. Forty-two percent of Texans, meanwhile, support the decision to allow all businesses to operate at 100% capacity and 49% oppose it. The complete results are available here

“Good public policy includes assuring the people are informed. It also requires that those who are governing hear the public’s opinions,” said Kirk P. Watson, founding dean of the Hobby School. “The Hobby School strives to capture the sentiments of the people of Texas on important issues in an effort to determine whether policies recommended and enforced reflect the will of the people. COVID, and reacting to COVID, has been an unprecedented and defining force in our lives. It’s important to know how people respond to it and the public policy actions related to it.”

Other notable findings:

  • Ten times as many Republicans than Democrats (70% to 7%) support Gov. Abbott’s decision to end the statewide mask mandate.
  • Over three-quarters of Republicans (77%) support his decision to allow businesses to operate at 100% capacity compared to 12% of Democrats.
  • Men are significantly more likely than women (44% to 29%) to support Gov. Abbott’s decision to end the statewide mask mandate, and men are significantly more likely than women (50% to 35%) to support his decision to allow businesses to reopen at 100% capacity.
  • 60% of Anglos agree with the statement that Gov. Abbott’s decision will restore jobs and return a sense of normalcy to Texans’ lives compared to only 33% of Latinos and 21% of African Americans.

“This survey brings to light the balance of opinion regarding the economy and jobs on the one side and endangering lives on the other,” said Renée Cross, senior director of the Hobby School. “And as with all things political today, there are stark differences of opinion among Republicans and Democrats on whether the state should end the COVID-19 restrictions at this point and what will happen as a result.”

The Hobby School has conducted extensive research on the impact of COVID-19 on Texas since the early days of the pandemic, with reports focusing on the Houston and Austin areas, specific industry sectors statewide including restaurantsoil and gassalonsreal estate and Hispanic-owned businesses as well as statewide studies on voting during the pandemic and the coronavirus vaccine. The latest survey exploring Texans’ opinions about the lifting of the statewide restrictions provides timely information in the Hobby School’s research series on the pandemic.

“Strong ethnic and racial differences exist regarding Governor Abbott’s decision to end the mask mandate, with Anglos twice and five times more likely to support the decision than Latinos and African Americans respectively,” said Mark P. Jones, a fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute and a Hobby School senior research associate. Slightly more than one-half of Anglos (52%) support the end of the mask mandate, compared to 26% of Latinos and 10% of African Americans.

An additional Hobby School report scheduled to be released next week will focus on the impact of Winter Storm Uri in Texas.