Poll finds slight majority support parent control in Florida school mask debate

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A slight majority of recently polled Floridians agree with Gov. Ron DeSantis that parents should determine if their children should wear masks in school, but a majority disapprove of the governor’s stance in banning businesses from requiring proof of vaccination from patrons and employees.

The school mask and “vaccine passport” issues have embroiled Florida in controversy this summer certain to carry over into the fall and winter in the form of litigation, court rulings and legislative action when lawmakers convene in January for their 2021 legislative session.

On Tuesday, the state’s Board of Education determined the Alachua and Broward county school districts’ mandatory mask mandates violate state law and DeSantis’ June 30 executive order that allows parents to decide if their students wear masks at school.

Both districts face sanctions that may include withholding the equivalent of board and superintendent salaries and the removal of officials from their posts.

The governor’s actions in championing parental rights has garnered more support than opposition, according to an August 12-16 survey of 500 respondents conducted by Aristotle Inc., on behalf of Florida Atlantic University’s Business & Economics Polling Initiative (FAU BEPI).

Slightly more than 51% responded “yes” when asked if they “support allowing parents to decide if their children should wear masks indoors at school.”

In response to the same question, 40% said they oppose allowing parents decide if children should be masked in school and 9% were unsure.

The FAU BEPI survey varies from an Aug. 3 St. Pete Polls survey of 3,952 likely voters, in which 62% of respondents said they support mask mandates in schools and less than 32% said they opposed such measures.

According to the FAU BEPI survey, however, 66% of respondents said they agreed with federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommendations that all public school students, staff and teachers wear masks in school, regardless of vaccination status, while 30% disagreed and 4% were unsure.

In addition, two-thirds of respondents – just over 67% – said universities should require vaccinations for students, especially those who chose to live in campus housing.

More than 85% of respondents who identified themselves as of parents with children ages 6-11 said they would get their child inoculated when a vaccine is approved for children.

Of respondents who identified themselves as of parents with children ages 12-18, 76% said their children has received at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot or plans to receive it soon; 24% say they do not plan to get their children vaccinated.

During the 2021 legislative session, lawmakers adopted Senate Bill 2006 , which bans businesses from requiring proof of vaccinations for entry of services or face $5,000 fines for each violation.

Norwegian Cruise Line challenged the law in a federal lawsuit and secured a temporarily injunction blocking SB 2006’s implementation.

A significant majority of respondents in the FAU BEPI survey say they disagree with the ban on businesses requesting proof of vaccination as a violation of property rights.

For businesses requiring their employees being vaccinated, 65% said they support such measures while 30% were opposed and 5% were unsure.

For passengers on airlines, 68% support “vaccine passports” while 29% oppose and 4% were unsure, according to the survey.

When it comes to cruise ships, 70% said they support vaccination proof while 25% are opposed and 5% unsure.

A slight majority – 53% – said restaurants and other retailers should be allowed to bar the unvaccinated if they chose with 40% disagreeing and 7 % unsure.

Another 61% of FAU BEP survey respondents said they support vaccine mandates for those attending large sports and entertainment events while 33% said they disagreed with such measures.

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