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NextLI survey: Long Islanders worried about virus' impact on loved ones, finances

Newsday spoke to some Long Islanders about their concerns regarding the coronavirus and what worries them the most. Credit: Newsday / Raychel Brightman

Most Long Islanders are worried that they or their loved ones may get seriously ill from the disease or die, and they’re concerned about the pandemic’s effect on their financial futures, a nextLI survey being released Tuesday shows.

The poll found confidence that the coronavirus situation on the Island is improving, but a widespread apprehension that the region may experience a second wave of cases in the fall, along with long-term economic and other damage from the pandemic.

“Across the board, there's a more severe level of intensity of concern among Long Islanders than there is nationally,” said Kristen Harmeling, a senior vice president for market research at YouGov, the London-based research and public-opinion group that conducted the survey for nextLI, a Newsday initiative with a goal of stimulating Islandwide discussion of public policy questions.

That likely is because the region was "hit hard and hit early,” she said.

Nationally, 56% of those surveyed by YouGov said they were very or fairly worried their friends or family may become seriously unwell or die from COVID-19 — compared with 72% on Long Island. And although only 27% of Americans nationally were worried their children’s education will suffer because of COVID-19, 71% of Long Islanders were worried that their kids’ education, or their own, will suffer.

The survey of 1,043 Long Island residents was conducted between June 22 and July 1, when the number of daily deaths statewide had fallen to 10 or fewer on some days, after reaching a peak of nearly 800 in early April.

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The improving numbers are reflected in the 67% of respondents who said the COVID-19 situation was getting better on Long Island.

Yet Long Islanders are not complacent. Forty-three percent said a “second wave of COVID-19” is either highly or very likely in the fall, with only 14% saying it is highly or very unlikely.

The survey was being finalized as protests against police brutality spread throughout Long Island and across the country. Four questions about the protests were added.

The poll found a plurality of Long Islanders supported the protests — but there were sharp divisions along racial and ethnic lines.

While 66% of Black Long Islanders backed the protests, only 34% of white residents did, as did 47% of Hispanics and 41% of Asians. Only 8% of Black residents opposed the protests; 28% of white residents did. The rest were “neutral.”

Olivia Mance, 23, of Freeport, who helped organize two large protests, said the disparities reflected the region’s racial segregation.

“We live on the same island, but we don’t have a lot of the same shared experiences,” said Mance, who is Black.

For Black residents, protests against police brutality and abuse are “much more connected with their own direct experience and that of their friends and that of their [social-media and personal] networks,” said David Kennedy, director of the National Network for Safe Communities at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan and an expert on strengthening relationships between police and communities. 

The survey also found a significant drop in trust of the police among Black young adults on Long Island. A May 2019 nextLI poll of people 18-34 who lived on Long Island or were born on the Island found that 66% of Black respondents had “a great deal” or “some” trust in Suffolk or Nassau police. In the latest poll, only 25% of young Black adults — in this case ages 18 to 39 — had a great deal or some trust in the police, compared with a majority of white, Hispanic and Asian young adults.

Mance, who was not part of the survey, said the drop in trust stems in part from how videos such as the one showing George Floyd dying with officer Derek Chauvin’s knee on his neck conflict with official police accounts. Minneapolis police initially said Floyd died after “medical distress.”

“It’s one thing to get a quote or a comment from a police officer to tell you how they think an interaction transpired, and it’s a completely different thing to watch it for yourself on video, taken by a civilian person,” Mance said. “You cannot doctor a video that’s right there for me to see.”

About the survey

The poll was conducted by YouGov on behalf of nextLI. The 1,043 Long Island residents — 552 from Suffolk County and 491 from Nassau — were surveyed between June 22 and July 1. The data was weighted to reflect the demographic makeup of the Island. The margin of error was +/- 3.03% for the entire sample, and +/- 6.64% for the 218 parents surveyed. The nextLI project is a Newsday initiative funded by a grant from the Rauch Foundation. It focuses on research and data analysis and receives input from an advisory board.

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