New UND survey shows residents were a mixed bag on COVID-response measures this fall

The survey was given by phone to 1,637 randomly selected North Dakotans and was stratified to ensure at least 200 respondents from each of the state’s eight regions. The interviews were conducted from Sept. 23 through Nov. 24.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum issued a statewide mask mandate late Friday evening, as confirmed coronavirus cases continued to rise to record levels. The move was almost immediately rebuked by many rural western North Dakotans who continue eschewing the wearing of masks. On Monday, many businesses continued their commercial enterprise with customers and staff sans masks. (Dickinson Press file photo)

North Dakota residents were a mixed bag on government-mandated coronavirus response measures, a newly released survey from UND showed.

UND’s Institute of Policy and Business Analytics conducted a statewide survey last fall assessing people’s attitudes and behaviors surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

When asked about their top three concerns relating to the virus, nearly one in four North Dakotans (24%) said they did not have any concerns. The survey was conducted as North Dakota’s coronavirus caseloads were soaring and deaths were at an all-time high related to the virus.

North Dakotans also seemed unsure of vaccinations at the time, when they were asked in the survey how likely they’d be to get vaccinated if an FDA-approved vaccine became available.

On a scale of one to 10, with one being “extremely unlikely” and 10 being “extremely likely,” the average rating was 5.22 statewide.


But there’s more to that number than meets the eye, said Jason Jensen, professor of political science and public administration at UND and executive director of the Institute of Policy and Business Analytics. It was likely more related to the population reserving judgment, Jensen said.

The survey showed that a majority of people supported the interventions that had been taken throughout the pandemic by businesses and government.

The survey revealed that only about 37% of respondents supported government-mandated business shutdowns during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, 78% supported businesses implementing social distancing guidelines, 72% supported forced quarantines for people who’d been exposed to or contracted COVID-19, and 61% supported government limits on crowd sizes for gatherings, the survey found.

Additionally, 67% of respondents supported opening all schools in North Dakota to in-person instruction.

Today, nearly 100% of all K-12 students in the state are attending school in-person, compared with about 70% of students in Minnesota and 23% in California, Burbio’s School Tracker reports .

Jensen says the survey results reveal that North Dakotans are willing to follow public health guidelines if they’re shown there’s a need.

“They’re not going to take authorities’ word on blind faith,” Jensen said in a press release. “But they’re willing to listen, and importantly, they’re willing to be persuaded if the findings are strong, and the spokespeople are reliable.”


The survey also polled residents about where they turn to get trustworthy information about the virus: 42% said they went to traditional news sources, 22% said the Centers for Disease Control and 21% said they used the North Dakota Department of Health website.

The Institute of Policy and Business Analytics, which conducted the survey, is the research arm of the Nistler College of Business & Public Administration at UND. Established in 2019, the Institute conducts basic and applied research that serves North Dakota and the region.

The survey was given by phone to 1,637 randomly selected North Dakotans and was stratified to ensure at least 200 respondents from each of the state’s eight regions. The interviews were conducted from Sept. 23 through Nov. 24.

The survey was meant to help North Dakota leaders understand their audience so as to communicate more effectively about public health. It also was meant to help with contingency planning as North Dakota decision-makers confront the new realities of COVID-19 in the state.

The survey also presented scenarios of how the pandemic might play out, then asked respondents about possible responses to the scenarios.

“When respondents were presented with two contingencies linked to certain questions, one being a more severe pandemic scenario and the other less severe, opinions and behaviors were overwhelmingly flexible,” the Institute of Policy and Business Analytics reports.

For example, “respondents indicated that, under the most severe scenario, they were more likely to engage in and support pandemic-related safety behaviors,” and were more supportive of almost all business and government interventions.


Jason Jensen.jpg
Jason Jensen

Jason Jensen.jpg
Jason Jensen

Sydney Mook has been the managing editor at the Herald since April 2021. In her role she edits and assigns stories and helps reporters develop their work for readers.

Mook has been with the Herald since May 2018 and was first hired as the Herald's higher education reporter where she covered UND and other happenings in state higher education. She was later promoted to community editor in 2019.

For story pitches contact her at or call her at 701-780-1134.
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