January 22, 2021
Niki Reading


Poll shows 75% of the public supports reopening restaurants
New national data shows 50 percent indoor capacity is safest

OLYMPIA – A statewide poll released this week found that 75 percent of Washington adults support reopening indoor dining at 50 percent capacity.

Support was bipartisan, with 60 percent of self-identified Democrats favoring restricted reopening, 81 percent of independents, and 93 percent of Republicans. Seventy-one percent of respondents said they support SB 5114/HB 1321 to allow restaurants to reopen at 25 percent and give the legislature, not the governor, power to increase capacity over time. Earlier this week, more than 1,500 people signed in to testify in favor of the Senate bill in its first hearing, while just 100 signed in as opposed.

Further, an analysis of the COVID-19 death rate in all states with a mask mandate for the month of December shows that 50 percent indoor dining is the safest
option. The analysis found that states with 50 percent indoor dining capacity had the lowest death rate per 100,000.

“When indoor dining was shut down in November, we warned the governor’s office that this could drive cases up if people moved gatherings from highly regulated restaurants to private homes without safety precautions. Sadly, we were right,” said Anthony Anton, President and CEO of the Washington Hospitality Association. “We don’t have to choose between reopening the economy and staying safe: There is data and overwhelming bipartisan public support for the safest public policy avenue,” Anton said.

Most states already recognize this: Washington is one of only 5 states in the nation where indoor dining is not currently allowed — and will be one of only 3 soon, as Illinois is reopening indoor dining this weekend and Michigan will reopen Feb. 1. Eighty-six percent of states run by Democratic governors allow indoor dining (including MI and IL).

The statewide poll was conducted this week by American Strategies, a national polling firm, on behalf of the Washington Hospitality Association. They contacted 792 adult residents of Washington via phone and text message, for a weighted effective sample size of 700 with a margin of error of +/-3.7 percentage points.

The graph below includes the average death rate per 100,000 people for all states with mask mandates in December, grouped according to indoor dining capacity. The graph for new case counts looks similar, underscoring that responsible indoor dining is part of the solution rather than the problem. Source: CDC and state department of health data as collected by Bing-Microsoft.