Texans are conflicted between economic risks and pandemic fears

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Some may have thought Texans would pour out of their homes when Gov. Greg Abbott announced that his stay-at-home order would expire on schedule, allowing restaurants, movie theaters and malls to begin reopening at reduced capacity. But our polling suggests that most Texans are not ready, however economically eager, to return to normal. The governor may have the ability to let businesses open, but he can’t force Texans to eat out, shop at the mall or go to the movies.

This is a tough spot for policymakers and for public health: On the one hand, Texans perceive the threats to the economy as severe, but they also appear unready to change their pandemic-induced behavior because the personal health risk to them remains more threatening than the economic ones.

Anecdotally, reactions to Abbott’s announcement were mixed, with many business owners concerned about their ability to open safely or the financial viability of doing so with a fraction of the customers.

Many Texans share those concerns. The University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll found that Texans — more likely to be unemployed than sick with COVID-19 — are currently expressing more concern about the economy than about the spread of the coronavirus.

Continue reading about the University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll results and how Texans are reacting to the pandemic.

Columns appearing on the service and this webpage represent the views of the authors, not of The University of Texas at Austin.