Most Americans support schools mandating that masks be worn by students and staff in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus. However, conservative voters’ antipathy toward such rules has likely caused Republican politicians to oppose such mandates, and to ban them where they may be desperately needed.
An Axios/Ipsos poll published this week found that 69 percent of Americans support masking requirements in schools, while only 30 percent oppose such measures. Similarly, 65 percent of respondents in the poll also said they were opposed to politicians banning local governments and school districts from deciding for themselves if they needed to implement mask mandates. Just 33 percent said they were supportive of such bans.
There is a clear partisan divide when it comes to views about masking rules and bans on them. Republican-leaning respondents were largely dismissive of mask mandates, and supportive of bans that would take away the authority of local governments to implement them, the poll also found.
The difference in opinion over masking rules, based on political viewpoints, could be what’s driving the GOP governors and legislators from some states to push for bans against requiring masks, Cliff Young, president of Ipsos U.S. Public Affairs, suggested.
“This is why we’re seeing so much conflict,” Young said, adding that the “data shows that public policy and public health is continuously challenged by our politics today.”
Last month, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued an executive order that banned localities from issuing masking mandates. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) also signed into law a bill passed by the Republican-led state legislature that banned local governments, including school districts, from instituting rules on masking. Both governors are facing direct challenges from districts that are now attempting to institute masking standards for students and staff.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, also a Republican, similarly signed an anti-masking bill his state’s legislature passed earlier this year, banning districts in the state from issuing requirements about facial coverings in schools. Earlier this month, however, Hutchinson said he regretted his decision to support the bill.
“Everything has changed now,” Hutchinson recently said, referring to the surge in the Delta variant of COVID-19. “And yes, in hindsight I wish that had not become law.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that all students, teachers and staff be masked while indoors for the upcoming school year, regardless of an individual’s vaccination status. Children under 12 have not yet been authorized to receive a vaccine for the coronavirus, and the recent surge of cases has seen a record increase in the number of children being hospitalized unlike the earlier waves of infection.
In addition to wearing masks, the CDC has also advised that students be kept at least three feet apart from one another while in school, and that schools adopt basic public health strategies, such as requiring students and school staff to stay at home and get tested immediately upon presenting symptoms.