Poll: School mask mandate fight goes beyond battleground states

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 have been banned, including in Texas and Florida, opposition to school mask mandates is highest in Colorado (37%), Iowa (44%), Minnesota (38%), and Ohio (43%).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.

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