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P.J. Parmar, a family physician, tests a patient for the coronavirus in the parking lot of his clinic in Aurora on April 15, 2020. (Moe Clark, The Colorado Sun)

An overwhelming majority of Colorado believes strong measures, like the closure of businesses, are needed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, a new poll finds.

The sentiment — shared by two-thirds of residents — appears to conflict with a push by Gov. Jared Polis to begin reopening Colorado starting today with curbside retail sales and nonemergency medical procedures. And it’s amplified by the 43% plurality who believe the worst of the pandemic is yet to come, compared to 35% who believe the worst is behind us. 

The data “makes it clear that people don’t want to be rushed back to work until they can do it safely, without putting their loved ones and coworkers at risk,” said Jake Williams, the executive director at Healthier Colorado.

The findings are part of a public opinion survey conducted April 15-21 by Magellan Strategies and released Monday by Healthier Colorado and the Colorado Health Foundation, two organizations that advocate for policies to improve health care. The margin of error for the survey is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points and it is weighted to reflect 2019 population census projections. 

Overall, the poll showcases the anxiety in Colorado regarding the virus that causes the disease COVID-19, as well as the economic impact with 47% reporting losing a job, work hours or income. Lower income residents and people ages 18 to 29 are impacted the most. But compared to similar national surveys, the Colorado’s residents are generally more optimistic.

One in five people who answered the survey said they or someone they know tested positive for COVID-19, which reflects a propensity to draw respondents who have a story to tell about the current crisis, according to the pollsters. The state estimates that closer to 1% of the state, or roughly 75,000 people, has contracted the disease.

MORE: Colorado governor issues executive order providing details on new “safer-at-home” coronavirus phase

The question about how to balance public health concerns with the impact on the economy found that 64% agreed the state “should take measures aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus while more widespread testing becomes available — even if that means many businesses will have to stay closed.” The support is the same rate among residents who lost their job, income or work hours due to the coronavirus.

The alternative presented in the poll drew support from 29% who agreed the state should “ease up on measures aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus soon, in order to open businesses and get the economy going again, even if that means more people would get coronavirus and could die.”

The question is top-of-mind this week after the governor let the stay-at-home order expire Sunday. The Polis administration is setting a path to opening businesses in the next month that includes allowing companies to resume office work with no more than 50% of their employees present May 4.

Leaders in Denver and the surrounding metropolitan area don’t agree with the approach and extended their stay-at-home orders until May 8, saying first more testing and tracing of the outbreak is needed.

MORE: Colorado’s economy is about to restart — slowly — but will customers follow?

How Colorado’s perspective on the policies compares to the nation is not clear. The question from the Magellan poll about whether measures are still needed to slow the coronavirus is identical to one from a national survey in late March by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which found even larger concern about lifting restrictions too soon. But the monthlong gap between the polls makes them difficult compare.

The state’s outlook is roughly in line with national surveys that found 64% of people are more concerned with the public health impact of the coronavirus and others that showed 68% support for social distancing measures that restrict movement and work-related activities.

The political persuasion of Colorado residents influences their opinion of government orders on movement, which is also the case at the national level. The Magellan Strategies poll found those who self-identified as Republican were less likely to support measures that closed businesses at 44%, compared to 49% who believe the state needs to prioritize the economy, according to numbers shared with The Colorado Sun.

About 80% of Democrats and 68% of those who identified as unaffiliated wanted to keep measures in place to slow the virus’ spread. 

A similar partisan dynamic colored the results on a question about who people can trust for accurate information about the coronavirus. The most trustworthy source of those listed is the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, followed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

President Donald Trump is trusted at least “somewhat” by half of Colorado residents, a higher rate than national numbers. He receives strong support from Republicans but not Democrats. Those who identified as unaffiliated split down the middle but lean toward considering the president not trustworthy.

The Colorado governor is trusted by 81% of the state, including seven in 10 Republicans and the vast majority of Democrats and unaffiliated residents.

Other findings from the survey include:

  • About half said their financial situation was the same before the coronavirus outbreak, compared with 43% who said it is worse.
  • A majority at 57% were very or somewhat concerned that they or someone in their household would lose their job, income or work hours in the next six months.
  • About 51% of those currently working are doing so from home, compared with 36% who are working outside the home.
  • About 43% believe their financial situation will remain the same one year from now, while 35% thought it would get better and 17% feel it would get worse.
  • A majority at 56% believe the state should take the lead in responding to the coronavirus, compared with 35% who put that responsibility on the federal government.

John Frank is a former Colorado Sun staff writer. He left the publication in January 2021.