KSAT: 3 takeaways from Bexar Facts polling in 2020

From spotlighting a drop in coronavirus concern to a boost in approval ratings of local politicians

3 takeaways from Bexar Facts polling in 2020

Editor’s Note: Article originally published on ksat.com

SAN ANTONIO – This was a year unlike any other. Find more stories wrapping up 2020 here.

What a year to start public polling.

In 2020, KSAT partnered with Bexar Facts and the San Antonio Report for a quarterly nonpartisan poll, which gauged the opinions of registered Bexar County voters on a wide variety of topics. And in a year that saw a devastating pandemic, a highly contentious election and a widespread discussion and protests on policing and race inequities, there was no shortage of issues to explore.

Throughout the year, we’ve reported on the findings of the Bexar Facts-KSAT-San Antonio Report poll, but here are three of the biggest takeaways on the issues that drive our community.

Drop in coronavirus concerns preceded summer surge

A few months into the COVID-19 pandemic, fatigue began to set in.

In a poll taken in April, 76% of respondents viewed the spread of COVID-19 as a very or extremely serious problem. But in June, that number dropped to 66%.

Around that same time, San Antonio had become a COVID-19 hotspot, sparking a summer surge that lasted into August.

“We have what I refer to as ‘COVID virus fatigue’ with regard to our social interactions,” UT Health San Antonio’s president William L. Henrich said in June. “We’ve let our guard down. We must counter this by wearing masks and returning to what thwarted the virus in the first place.”

Though the COVID-19 spike was eventually contained by the fall, San Antonio finds itself amid another surge in December with increased active cases and increased hospitalizations.

Multiple vaccines have been approved before the end of the year, but public health experts expect the general public will not be able to get vaccinated until the spring.

Pandemic’s effect on political approval ratings

San Antonio’s leaders have remained highly visible throughout the coronavirus pandemic, which may have helped their approval ratings.

Both San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff saw an increase in their approval ratings since the onset of the pandemic. Though those numbers slightly dropped after the most recent poll taken in September, they still remained higher than the approval ratings they had pre-pandemic.

But not every politician fared well with the voters amid the pandemic. Public support for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott fell significantly among Bexar County voters.

In April, Abbott had enjoyed 70% approval from poll respondents voters, with only 27% of them giving the governor an unfavorable rating. By September, Abbott saw his approval rating go down to 45%, with his disapproval rating going up to 50%.

The polling showed Abbott’s approval rating saw a 30% drop in support from Democrats, a 28% drop in support from independents and a 13% drop in support from Republicans.

“Abbott’s Bexar County numbers reflect a trend we have seen around the country – which is a rallying of bipartisan support in the immediate wake of the pandemic, and then a steady return to partisan polarization over the course of the summer,” said Dave Metz, founder of FM3 Research, which conducted the poll. “Abbott has lost the most ground with Democrats and independents over the last few months, and his job approval rating now (45%) mirrors the share of the vote he got in Bexar County in 2018.”

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