As state officials prepare to announce their COVID plan for K-12 schools next week, a new poll has revealed that nearly two-thirds of California voters, including parents, support mask and vaccine policies.
The survey of nearly 9,000 California voters—conducted this month by the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkley and co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times— suggests continued support for legislation aimed at containing the spread of the virus in schools, despite the increase of statewide protests against such mandates.
Of those surveyed, researchers found that nearly 80 percent of parents with school-age children support allowing in-person instruction to proceed at their kids’ schools. Meanwhile, researchers found that Black and Latino parents—populations that have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID pandemic—expressed less confidence in their children’s safety from COVID at schools than did white and Asian parents.
“[People] want to get things back to normal,” Mark DiCamillo, director of the Berkeley IGS Poll, told Los Angeles. “People, I think, are anxious about getting educational quality back to where it was because they did perceive this decline during the COVID-period, so you see this very large majority in favor of in-person instruction.”
He added that he thinks the sector of parents who don’t feel confident about their children’s safety is “what’s driving the desire to have the majority opinion of vaccinating the kids who are going to school and also wearing masks.”
A majority of people said they felt like the “overall quality of education in the local public schools has gotten worse since the outbreak of the pandemic,” according to the poll. DiCamillo noted that parents’ opinions vary based on the type of school that their child attends. There’s greater support—about 65 percent—for wearing masks in schools among the parents of kids who go to traditional, public schools. Support goes down to 50 percent for parents of kids who go to private, religious, and charter schools, he said.
Asked about the importance of having their school-age child vaccinated against COVID, 64 percent of parents said they thought it was essential or important, while 26 percent disapproved, according to the poll. Asian parents were more likely to feel that it is essential to have their child vaccinated, researchers said.
“These results suggest that while concerns about the impact of COVID on education span all major voter subgroups, big partisan differences remain when voters are asked how schools should respond to the pandemic,” IGS co-director, Eric Schickler, said in a statement.
The poll results also reveal political divides among California voters. Roughly 70 percent of Republicans said they were opposed to mask and vaccine mandates for schools while about 85 percent of Democrats supported them.
However, a majority of nearly all other demographic groups polled—including parents, low income, wealthy, Black, Asian, white, and Latino voters—approved COVID mandates in schools, the Times reports.
When asked whether they supported the state’s requirement that “students, teachers, and staff in K-12 public schools wear masks while in school this year,” 61 percent of parents of school-age children said they approved. Meanwhile, 37 percent disapproved.
Fifty-five percent of parents supported the state’s plan to add COVID to the list of vaccines required for school children upon full approval from the Food and Drug Administration, while 42 percent disapproved, according to the poll.
California voters who don’t have children showed even stronger support, with two-thirds in favor of mask and vaccine mandates for schools.
State officials are expected to announce on Monday whether they will ease requirements for students and employees in K-12 schools to wear face coverings indoors. L.A. County dropped its outdoor school mask policy last week, and L.A. Unified School District followed suit this week.
This poll arrives a day after L.A. County public health officials announced that people who are fully vaccinated against COVID will be able to go maskless in certain indoor establishments beginning this Friday.
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