The heated debate over whether children should be forced to wear masks has been ongoing pretty much since schools began to reopen (again) and it doesn’t look like it will be easing up any time soon. It has seemed like parents are on one side and teachers are on the other. However, two new polls suggests maybe that’s not the case. Their polling data suggests that most parents want children to wear masks when attending school.
The first poll comes from The Morning Consult and was conducted December 14-16, 2021. It should be noted that the sample size included a mere 1,325 school parents, which in the big scheme of things, isn’t a huge number when considering the United States is estimated to have around 332 million residents. The poll had a much higher than national average number of special needs parents, with 26% reporting they have special needs children. It’s also unclear what region of the country the respondents hail from, the polling data doesn’t reveal that.
The Morning Consult poll is lengthy and in-depth. It covers numerous topics such as children’s education and the direction parents see it going, school choice, school satisfaction, the coronavirus and schools’ response to it, vaccination mandates, mask mandates, and issues concerning the government and our economy. We are going to jump to masks in schools as it is a topic on many minds.
In the first table, parents are asked if they thought masking kids between the ages of 5-11 should be mandatory while attending public schools. Half of the parents (50% or 659) came back with an answer of yes, masks should be mandatory. 29% (389) parents said that masks should be encouraged but not made mandatory while 21% (278) said that masks should not be encouraged nor mandatory.
The same question was posed to parents, but this time is asked about students in the 12 and older age group. The numbers dropped a bit for those calling for mandatory masks in schools as only 48% (642) said they should be. 32% called for masks encouraged but not mandatory and 20% (264) parents said masks in this age group should not be mandatory at all.
Again, the same question was posed to parents for students 18 years and older who were attending college. Numbers rose a bit as 51% (671) said that masks in schools should be mandatory for kids in this age group. 30% (398) of the parents polled said that masks should be encouraged but not mandatory and 19% (256) say that masks should not be mandatory.
The poll also brought to light the question of teachers and staff working in public schools should be required to mask up. 53% (699) of the parents answered yes to that question, while 28% (365) said they should be encouraged to wear a mask. 20% (262) of the parents said masks were not necessary.
The Morning Consult also conducted a poll along with The New York Times concerning a number of the same queries. In this second poll, 4,111 parents were asked questions concerning COVID, the pandemic in general, the variants we see, the variants we may see, and how it all affects families moving forward. The poll also asked about vaccines and boosters and if masks in schools should be required.
As it pertains to wearing masks in public schools, the question posed was “Do you support or oppose the following initiatives taking effect in your community? Requiring students to wear masks in schools.” The answers were broken into Strongly Support (2,148), Somewhat Support (856), Somewhat Oppose (430), Strongly Oppose (720), and Don’t Know/No Opinion (277). Overall, the numbers are fairly surprising. Support (a combination of Strongly and Somewhat) came in at 68%. Oppose was 26% while the Don’t Know/No Opinion category hit 6%.
This polling data is, however, far from definitive. The people involved represent a very, very small sample size and may not reflect the overall masks in school attitude seen across the entire nation. In fact, in direct opposition to those recent poll numbers, many legislators are going to bat for parents in order to remove mask mandates from school. That’s not something most politicians would do unless they thought a majority of their constituents were on board. This debate is heated, the fire continues to burn, and for now, no one wants to extinguish it.