Sep 7, 2021 - Health

Poll: School mask mandate fight goes beyond battleground states

Illustration of a school crossing sign wearing a mask.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Most parents back mask mandates, but the states where GOP parents are most opposed aren't the ones we always hear about, according to a new Axios/Momentive poll.

Why it matters: While plenty of attention has centered around debates around the public health measures in schools in states like Texas and Florida, the poll offers a glimpse at how much more widespread opposition is across the country.

As expected, individuals' feelings on mask mandates fell along party lines, with 85% of Democrats, 66% of independents, and 32% of Republicans supporting mask mandates for all students and staff at their child’s school.

  • But rather than states where school mask mandates bans have been in the national spotlight, such as Texas and Florida, opposition to school mask mandates is highest in Colorado (37%), Minnesota (38%), and Ohio (43%) — as well as Iowa (44%), which does have a ban.
  • Drilling down even deeper, fewer than half (46%) of Republicans in Texas —which has been especially hard hit by COVID in recent weeks — oppose all mask mandates. In comparison, 70% of Colorado Republicans oppose the mandates.
  • In Florida, more than half of Republican parents (52%) say they oppose all mask mandates. In comparison, Republican parents oppose the mandates by margins ranging from 2:1 to 3:1 in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Illinois, the poll found.

What they're saying: "The cross-state variability in Republican sentiment is notable," Jon Cohen, the chief research officer for Momentive told Axios. "School politics is ultimately local too, so a deeper dive within the states is a clear next step."

By the numbers: Overall, nearly 60% of parents backed the broadest school mandates, nearly twice as many as the number who say they oppose all mask mandates.

  • Another 10% of parents with children age five to 17 say they support mask mandates only for those students and staff members who are unvaccinated.

The intrigue: The poll also found a big gender and age divide when it comes to parents' feelings about mask mandates.

  • More mothers than fathers (66% vs. 50%) support mask mandates for all students and staff. More fathers than mothers (36% vs. 24%) oppose all mask mandates.
  • Republican parents under age 35 are 10 percentage points more likely than older ones to back requiring masks at school.

The data are from an Axios|Momentive online poll conducted August 16-25, 2021 among 38,251 adults ages 18 and older in the United States. The modeled error estimate for the full, national sample is plus or minus 1.0 percentage points."

Editor's note: This piece was corrected to show that Iowa does have a ban on mask mandates.

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