Poll finds two-thirds of Floridians support masks in school, but most favor letting parents make choice for their children. Huge political divide.

South Florida Sun Sentinel

Aug 18, 2021 1:20 PM

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As the COVID-19 rages, school is reopening, and mask policies are being furiously debated, a poll released Wednesday found 66% of Floridians agree that students, teachers and other staff should wear masks in school.

But support for a mask requirement is much less. The survey, conducted by Florida Atlantic University, found 51% of Floridians said parents should make the decision for their children. A smaller share, 40%, were opposed to leaving the decision up to parents.

The pollsters didn’t directly ask whether the public supports mask mandates imposed by several school districts, including Broward as a health and safety measure, and strongly opposed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, who said he favors parental choice and personal freedom. He strenuously repeated his opposition to school mask mandates Wednesday at a news conference in Pembroke Pines.

The poll found 30% of Floridians disagreed with the Centers for Disease Control recommendation that children and adults wear masks in schools.

The poll found 64% of Floridians are “very concerned” about the Delta variant, which has caused the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations to soar and prompted guidance from the CDC that even people who have been vaccinated should wear masks in most indoor public places. Another 17% were “a little” concerned, 12% “not that concerned” and 7% “not at all” concerned.

Enormous political divide.

The poll found an enormous, though not surprising, political divide.

On the Delta variant for example, 89% of Democrats said they were “very concerned” but just 44% of Republicans felt the same way. Independents were in between, with 61% reporting they were “very concerrned.”

Just 6% of Democrats said they were “not that concerned” or “not at all” concerned about the Delta variant, compared to 28% of Republicans and 25% of independents.

There were enormous differences between Democrats and Republicans throughout the poll — which is reflected in the different approaches taken by the state’s political leaders. Gov. Ron DeSantis has championed personal freedom and letting people make individual decisions and blocking state and local mandates. Democratic elected officials want more efforts to protect public health and society as a whole.

On all but one of 10 COVID-related questions posed to everyone who participated in the poll, the difference between Democrats and Republicans was at least 30 percentage points. The smallest Republican-Democratic gap was a still-large 28 points. The biggest was 43 points.

A quarter of parents or guardians of children between ages 12 and 18, who are eligible for vaccination, said they don’t plan to have their kids vaccinated. A strong majority, 76% said their children had received or would receive at least one shot of vaccine.

Among parents or guardians of children 6 to 11, 85% said they would get them vaccinated if approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Another 11% said they wouldn’t have their kids vaccinated.

Two-thirds of Floridians — 65% — support businesses requiring their employees to receive COVID vaccinations. Another 30% were opposed and just 5% were unsure. Views on requiring vaccination for university students were similar: 67% support and 29% opposed.

There are varying levels of support for requiring poof of vaccination depending on circumstances:

  • 68% support requiring proof of vaccination for airline passengers.
  • 70% support for cruise ship passengers.
  • 61% support for fans at large sports and entertainment venues.
  • 53% support for dine-in restaurant customers.
  • CDC recommendation that everyone in school wear masks — Among Republicans, 51% agree and 44% disagree. Among Democrats, 88% agreed; 9% disagreed. Among independents, 63% agreed; 34% disagree.
  • Parents should get to make decision about children wearing masks in school — Republicans: 73% agree, 17% disagree. Democrats: 31% agree, 63% disagree. Independents: 43% agree, 44% disagree.
  • Businesses requiring employees to be vaccinated — Republicans: 51% support; 47% oppose. Democrats: 84% support; 10% oppose. Independents: 62% support; 33% oppose.
  • Restaurants require proof of COVID-19 vaccine for dine-in customers — Republicans, 41% support; 56% oppose. Democrats: 76% support; 16% oppose. Independents: 39% support, 50% oppose.

The results come from an FAU Business and Economics Polling Initiative survey of survey of 500 likely Florida voters conducted through responses to mobile devices and through automated calls to people with landline telephones from Aug. 12-16. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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The sample size for subgroups — such as the 131 parents of children aged 12-18 and 118 parents of children aged 6-11 — is smaller, so the margin of error is higher.

Pollster ratings from FiveThirtyEight.com give FAU an A/B rating based on the historical accuracy and methodology of its polls.

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