Young Californians a Mixed Bag on Following Covid Health Rules

(Joe Giddens/PA via AP)

(CN) — As California continues its battle against the novel coronavirus, the overwhelming majority of youth statewide say they’re adhering to physical distancing guidelines — though some say the restrictions hamper their freedoms and that they don’t fear contracting the virus, according to a University of California poll released Monday.

The Golden State currently has more than 786,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19, according to California Department of Public Health data. The virus has ravaged the state, killing more than 15,000 Californians as of Monday. Latinos, Blacks, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in California are dying at disproportionately higher levels, according to state data.

While more than 6,100 of the total dead were over the age of 80, the virus has claimed the lives of hundreds of younger people. More than 229 deaths involved people aged 18 to 34 and 852 deaths were people aged 35 to 49.

Since there’s no vaccine to prevent Covid-19, public health officials continue to recommend at least six feet of distance between people in all settings, increased hygiene routines and the wearing of face coverings.

But only 36% of California youth report being “very strict” in their adherence to guidelines while 46% say they are “somewhat strict” and 14% are “not very strict,” according to the poll released Monday.

Five percent of respondents, or 52 people, said they’re “not strict at all” on guidelines. When pollsters asked why, 17 people said doing so restricts their freedom or rights and 16 said they don’t fear contracting Covid-19.

Still, 59% of youth overall said the novel coronavirus is a “very serious” problem in the U.S. and 24% said it’s “somewhat serious,” according to the survey conducted by YouGov between Aug. 19 and Sep 2.

A similar proportion said Covid-19 is a very serious problem in their community, 41%, or somewhat serious, 38%, the poll found. Additionally, 83% said they support California’s mandatory mask-wearing policy.

But the prospect of lifting restrictions “too early” is a concern for 67% of California youth, while 22% said doing so too slowly would frustrate progress on opening the statewide economy.

One in five youth said California’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic has been “poor” while 30% said the state’s action has been “good.”

Forty-one percent of youth said the federal government’s pandemic response has been “poor.”

At least 48% of survey respondents said they are Hispanic.

And young Californians aren’t only concerned about the novel coronavirus pandemic.

At least 61% of youth said racism and the struggle for racial justice are top issues in the state while 50% said health care and the economy, respectively, are top priorities, according to the survey of 1,000 California residents aged 18 to 24.

With the November general election weeks away, the survey also found California youth are more motivated to vote this year due to the pandemic (42%) and protests against racial injustice (45%). 

In the wake of the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the survey found 33% of youth said the president’s ability to nominate new members to the court makes them more likely to vote while 16% said it makes them less likely to vote.

UC President Michael V. Drake said in a statement Monday he’s encouraged to see California youth eager to vote in November.

“This survey confirms that California youth are paying attention to the issues of the day, and that they are motivated to shape the future of our country through action,” said Drake. 

While 51% of young Californians said they plan to vote by mail in the November election, only 25% said they’re “very confident” their ballot will be counted accurately and on time, the poll found.

Eighteen percent of youth still plan to vote in-person and nearly 60% said they’re fearful that Covid-19 will restrict voter turnout.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the poll result but said in a statement the survey shows youth in the state are making plans to vote.

“Not only are students rightfully concerned about the Covid-19 pandemic and racial injustice in the nation, this translates into motivation to participate in our elections,” said Padilla. 

The survey has a 3.5% margin of error.

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