Gov. Jay Inslee’s plan to offer $1,000 to state workers who get their omicron-specific COVID-19 booster was met with widespread skepticism among Washingtonians, with 57% unsupportive of a financial incentive in general, a new statewide poll shows.
Results from the WA Poll, conducted among 875 Washington adults earlier this month, showed widespread uncertainty about the plan, which was announced in early September. Over 1 in 5 people instead supported a booster mandate.
Most opposition came from Republican and male respondents, who largely felt neither a bonus nor a requirement was necessary, while Democrat and female respondents leaned more toward offering an incentive, or requiring the updated booster without the incentive. Feelings of disagreement with the plan generally increased with age — except among those 65 and older — and decreased with education level, results show.
Overall, about 27% of respondents approved of the booster incentive, while about 22% thought the state should require the booster without an incentive and 35% disapproved of a bonus and requirement.
The poll also found that among Democrats, 43% approved of a booster incentive, while 37% would have preferred a requirement instead. About 11% disapproved of both.
The plan was met with stronger opposition from Republicans — about 62% thought neither was necessary, while 16% supported the incentive, the results show.
The WA Poll also tracked general support for Inslee, who is now about midway through his third term. About 46% of people strongly or somewhat approved of his job performance and 48% strongly or somewhat disapproved. About 6% were unsure.
The results don’t differ much from a similar poll conducted this summer, but showed a slight decline in approval since last fall, when another King 5/SurveyUSA poll found 48% approval and 42% disapproval.
Paving the way for the booster incentive, a new labor contract has been ratified by both the state and the Washington Federation of State Employees, the largest union representing state workers, though funding wouldn’t come through until after the legislative session begins in January.
The incentive is part of the agreement, which would include a 7% raise over the next two years and a $1,000 retention bonus for current employees who remain employed on July 1, 2023, the union has said.
“Our members understood that an incentive would result in the highest number of state employees choosing to receive their boosters, the lowest number of employees choosing to leave state service and minimal impact to Washingtonians’ ability to access critical public services,” union President Mike Yestramski Jr. and Vice President Ashley Fueston said in a statement Friday.
The bonuses would come from the state general fund and other funds that typically cover employee compensation, according to a statement from the Office of Financial Management’s state human resources division.
Incentives would also apply to any employee who was considered fully up-to-date when they showed their vaccination status.
“The governor’s directive to provide incentives for remaining fully up-to-date with the latest boosters will help keep employees on the job and protect them against severe illness and hospitalization,” the statement continued.
Inslee announced last month that all COVID emergency orders will end on Oct. 31, including state vaccine mandates for health care and education workers. Workers at most state agencies, however, will still be required to be vaccinated against the virus.
The state has not updated its vaccine verification data since January, and has not been tracking employees’ booster statuses.
The new poll showed residents in nearly every socioeconomic class and throughout Western and Eastern Washington have mixed feelings about the booster incentive. Those living in rural areas of the state generally disagreed with the incentive and showed a preference for no incentive or requirement, while those living in urban areas generally favored the incentive.
About 26% of men approved of the bonus, while 20% thought the booster should be a requirement for state workers. About 37% disapproved of both. Meanwhile, about 28% of women were in favor of the incentive, 24% preferred a requirement and 33% disapproved of both.
More poll results will be released in the coming days on subjects including abortion, top issues for voters and whether President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump should run for office again.
Material from The Seattle Times archives was used in this report.
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