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Poll: Most Floridians support masks in schools, split on parents' choice

Published: Aug. 18, 2021 at 3:06 PM EDT
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As the debate about masks mandates at Florida schools remains a controversial subject, many Floridians seem split on whether parents should be able to decide if their children should wear masks in the classroom.

That's according to a new poll released Wednesday by Florida Atlantic University's Business and Economics Polling Initiative.

The statewide survey, which took place for five days between Aug. 12-16, polled 500 Florida residents on an array of coronavirus-related topics, ranging from masks and vaccines to vaccine requirements and the delta variant.

Dr. Monica Escaleras, director of FAU's BEPI, told WPTV's Josh Navarro that robocalls were made to landlines and cellphones in an effort to get a representative sample.

Masks in Schools

According to the poll, 51% of Floridians support the parents' right to choose whether their children should wear masks in schools, while 40% oppose it and 9% are unsure.

However, 66% of Floridians agree with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendation that all students, staff and teachers wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, while 30% disagree and 4% aren't sure.

A Palm Beach County student wears a face mask in class during the 2020/21 school year.
A Palm Beach County student wears a face mask in class during the 2020/21 school year.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order last month requiring school districts to give parents the right to choose. The Florida Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday to punish Broward and Alachua counties for mandating masks in schools, in defiance of the governor.

The survey results show that, among the 131 parents of children between the ages of 12 and 18, 61% said their children have received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine and 15% said they intend to vaccinate their children.

"It was very interesting to see that parents are very eager to get their kids vaccinated," Escalares said.

Just 24% said they don't plan to vaccinate their children.

Escalares said she hopes to be able to conduct a poll that is solely intended for parents.

Vaccination Requirements

As the highly contagious delta variant surges in Florida, a majority of the residents polled favor vaccination requirements for businesses and universities.

Sixty-seven percent support universities requiring students to be vaccinated, while 65% support businesses that require employees to be vaccinated.

Escalares, who is also a professor of economics, said she believes a vaccine requirement is helpful for businesses "because people will feel safer to go out and consume."

When it comes to requiring proof of vaccination, 70% of residents polled support it for passengers on a cruise ship, 68% support it for airline passengers and 61% support it for attendees of large sports and entertainment events.

Lights are illuminated at an empty LIV nightclub Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020, in Miami Beach, Fla.
Lights are illuminated at an empty LIV nightclub Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020, in Miami Beach, Fla.

When it comes to requiring proof of vaccination, 70% of residents polled support it for passengers on a cruise ship, 68% support it for airline passengers and 61% support it for attendees of large sports and entertainment events.

Escalares said the least amount of support for proof of vaccination was at dine-in restaurants.

"I think, my takeaway of why is that, is because you, as a customer, can have the choice of eating outside, correct?" Escalares said. "So in the case of planes, you have to be just indoors in the plane, but for dining, you can be dining outside. So I guess Floridians feel that there is not -- it's no so important for restaurants to require proof of vaccination for customers."

Delta Variant

A majority of Floridians -- 64% of those polled -- said they're very concerned about the delta variant.

Eighty-four percent of those surveyed said they have received a COVID-19 vaccine or plan to get vaccinated.

A man holds his vaccination reminder card after having received his first shot at a pop-up...
A man holds his vaccination reminder card after having received his first shot at a pop-up vaccination site next to Maximo Gomez Park, also known as Domino Park, Monday, May 3, 2021, in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami.

"I think that overall people are becoming more conscience that the vaccination is the way to go," Escalares said.

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