Health care workers backed Joe Biden in a big way in the 2020 election, but they are less than impressed by how he has handled the pandemic since then.
More than 1,000 health care workers polled by USA TODAY and Ipsos say they voted for Biden over Donald Trump by a solid 52%-31%, but these days they split down the middle on how the Biden administration has handled the pandemic: 41% approve, 40% disapprove.
Among Biden voters, 69% approve of the job he’s done on COVID, while 14% disapprove and 17% don’t know. Unsurprisingly, only 6% of Trump voters approve; 83% disapprove.
“I think them going back and forth really lost a lot of faith from the people,” Shannon Jackson, 38, an optometrist from Washington, Georgia, said of changing recommendations by the Biden team and the Centers for Disease Control. “I don’t think people believe what they’re saying anymore. I know I certainly don’t believe what they’re saying anymore.”
Ronald Rosenthal, 70, a consulting psychologist in Miami who was among those surveyed, praised the Biden White House for doing “a very good job” in handling the pandemic, but he added that dealing with state and city officials had been a struggle for policymakers. “Overall, I have to say I was sort of disappointed, I think, in the U.S. response to this because it’s been so highly politicized.”
Two-thirds of those polled, 68%, say politics has made their jobs harder.
EXCLUSIVE: Angry and abused, health care workers still overwhelmingly love careers, poll shows
SURVEY RESULTS: A look at the complete USA TODAY/Ipsos’ poll of health care workers
Below are other takeaways from the new poll of 1,170 healthcare workers, taken using Ipsos’ online probability-based KnowledgePanel. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.
Their own grade? Call it A+
They’ve been on the frontlines of the world’s worst pandemic in more than a century, and health care workers give themselves very high grades. Given the challenges they’ve faced, who could blame them?
An overwhelming 94% say American health care workers “have done an amazing job” during the pandemic. Just 2% disagree.
COVID’s reach is almost everywhere
The survey included health care workers of all sorts: doctors and dentists, registered nurses and practical nurses, technicians who operate diagnostic machines and those who work in laboratories, occupational and physical therapy aides, pharmacists and dental hygienists, even a handful of veterinarians.
That variety of jobs makes the broad reach of the pandemic particularly remarkable.
Two-thirds of those surveyed have treated or provided assistance to a COVID patient. Nearly half of those workers have treated a COVID patient who died. Of that group, 81% have treated COVID patients who weren’t vaccinated.
How about some hydroxychloroquine?
Health care workers who have treated unvaccinated patients were more likely hear defiance about the vaccine from them (67%) than to hear them regret not getting it (38%). Nearly a third of these workers say unvaccinated patients or their families have criticized the medical care they were providing.
The unvaccinated patients have had some ideas of their own. Among these workers, one in four (26%) have been asked for unproven treatments such as ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, drugs that have caused a buzz on social media but haven’t shown under scientific scrutiny to actually help.
“Really, you can’t change the minds of people that don’t want their minds to be changed,” said Reagan Stinson, 31, a physical therapy assistant and chiropractic technician from Fort Worth.
Note to Uncle Sam: Send help
Health care workers back a big role for the federal government in fighting COVID-19. Eighty-five percent support the federal government providing N95 masks through pharmacies and health clinics to anyone who wants them, and 83% back mailing free at-home COVID-19 tests to anyone who asks.
Close to 8 in 10 support sending the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to work with hospitals to increase bed capacity, and deploying military health personnel to support hospitals.
Combat pay and mental health
Health care employers get significant credit from their employees; three of four approve of how their bosses have responded. But there are some ways they say they have fallen short.
Fifty-seven percent say employees who are working in the most high-risk situations deserve additional pay, and 44% say all of them need more mental health support.
“You kind of have to be able to figure out how to take care of yourself while also doing everything you can to help those that you work with,” said Tosha Honey, 33, a licensed professional counselor in Hot Springs, Arkansas, who works with children who have behavioral and emotional issues.
In all, 40% of those surveyed are “very satisfied” with their current job; another 40% are “somewhat satisfied.”
The pandemic has made his job harder, said Luke Howard, 42, of suburban Toledo, a psychiatric attendant at a state hospital. “Sure, it’s tough to wear a mask and goggles for six hours a day sometimes; I mean, nobody wants to do that,” he said. That hasn’t changed his mind about his job, though. “I plan on retiring in this field,” he said. For now, “I plow through the days the best I can.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Poll: Health care workers split on Biden, want better pay, more help