Nearly two-thirds of Americans do not believe it is safe for K-12 students to return to school, according to a new nationwide survey.
Only 31% of people responding to the survey think returning to school is very safe or somewhat safe.
The survey indicates that women, people with lower incomes, non-whites, and Democrats are less likely to consider sending their children back to school this fall.
“Across the US, schools and parents are debating whether to choose face-to-face, online, or hybrid learning for K-12 students this fall,” says coauthor Katherine Ognyanova, an assistant professor of communication at Rutgers University–New Brunswick’s School of Communication and Information.
“Each option has benefits and risks as both community health and quality education hang in the balance. Given the high uncertainty and regional differences, decisions are likely best made locally on a case-by-case basis.”
The survey found that the wealthiest people (with yearly household incomes of more than $200,000) are almost twice as likely as the least wealthy (with household incomes under $10,000) to express confidence in school safety (40% versus 22%).
Viewpoints about returning to school differed profoundly by party affiliation: 51% of Republicans but only 13% of Democrats and 24% of independents express support for reopening schools for in-person education.
Participants who intend to vote for President Trump in November, or indicated they trust the president with the COVID-19 crisis, are 55% and 50% likely, respectively, to support in-person classes, compared with 15% of respondents who do not intend to vote for Trump and 13% who do not trust the president to manage the pandemic well.
Communities of color, which the pandemic has hit hard, are less likely to think school reopening is safe, Ognyanova says. Compared with African-American (13%), Hispanic (16%), and Asian respondents (17%), white Americans are considerably more likely to support face-to-face education this fall (32%).
The researchers polled 19,058 people across all 50 states plus the District of Columbia between July 10 and 26.
The COVID-19 Consortium for Understanding the Public’s Policy Preferences Across States conducted the study. The consortium, a joint project of Rutgers University, Northeastern University, Harvard University, and Northwestern University, has released 11 reports and has charted public opinion on to COVID-19 related topics since late April.
Source: Rutgers University