Jul 14, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Axios-Ipsos poll: Americans fear return to school

Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Note: ±7% margin of error; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Most U.S. parents say it would be risky to send their children back to school in the fall — including a slim majority of Republicans and a staggering nine in 10 Black Americans — in this week's installment of the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Why it matters: President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have threatened to withhold federal funds from schools that don't reopen. The new findings suggest that this pressure campaign could backfire with many of the voters to whom Trump is trying to appeal ahead of the election.

The big picture: Week 16 of our national poll finds that only one in three Americans trust the federal government to look out for their family's interests — a new low — with people's confidence also sliding (but still higher) in their state and local governments and the Federal Reserve.

  • 62% of Americans — a record high — now say they're wearing a face mask whenever they leave the house. That's up nine percentage points from late June, with the biggest driver being the rising share of Republicans now wearing masks at all times.

What they're saying: "Americans at this point, and parents more specifically, can't be force-fed policies that go against what they think," says Cliff Young, president of Ipsos U.S. Public Affairs.

  • "You can't wish away or scare away a virus," Young says. "And right now, they're not feeling safe in putting their children back in school."
  • "There's political risks as well — serious political risks for Trump and Republicans. Because even the Republican base sees a risk in putting kids back into the school in the fall."

By the numbers: Seven in 10 American parents overall see it as risky for schools to reopen in the fall, including majorities across partisan lines. But as with so many aspects of the pandemic, there are significant differences in how risky Democrats and Republicans see it. Just as striking are the differences between whites and people of color.

  • 82% of Democrats and 53% of Republicans say returning to school would be very or moderately risky. Among these, Democrats were more likely to see it as a large risk.
  • 89% of Black parents saw returning to school as a large or moderate risk, compared with 80% of Hispanic parents and 64% of white parents.
  • Gender wasn't a big driver of differences — about seven in 10 men and women saw it as risky, though women were slightly more likely to assess the risk as large.

Driving the news: Officials on Monday began announcing decisions impacting schools in some major metro areas, erring on the side of caution in response to health concerns and parents' anxieties.

  • In California, school officials announced that public schools in Los Angeles and San Diego will hold online classes only.
  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that New York schools will open only if the daily infection rates in their region are below 5% over a 14-day average, and that "we're not going to use our children as guinea pigs."

Methodology: This Axios/Ipsos Poll was conducted July 10-13 by Ipsos' KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,063 general population adults age 18 or older, including 219 parents of children under 18.

  • The margin of sampling error is ±3.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample of adults. For results based only on the sample of adults with children under 18, the margin of sampling error is ±7 percentage points.
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