By KENDALL KARSON, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — School disruption brought on by the coronavirus pandemic is fueling anxiety in a majority (59%) of parents who are concerned that their child is falling behind in their education, even while only 44% of adults with school-age children are willing to send their children to school, a new ABC News/Ipsos poll released Friday finds.
A majority of all American adults (55%) are against public schools in their community reopening with in-school instruction in the fall. Nearly four in 10 parents are not concerned about their children making educational gains because of COVID-19.
The new poll, which was conducted by Ipsos in partnership with ABC News using Ipsos’ Knowledge Panel, comes as schools land at the center of the fight over reopening the country.
President Donald Trump, who acknowledged during his first coronavirus briefing in nearly three months the severity of the virus, saying, “it will probably unfortunately get worse before it gets better,” is still pushing for schools to restart in-person instruction, saying on Wednesday, “I would like to see the schools open.”
Trump even said he would be “comfortable” sending his own son and grandchildren back to school on Wednesday, when asked by ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl.
On Thursday, after the poll was out of the field, Trump started to move away from his hard line on school reopenings, saying that the decision should fall on the shoulders of the nation’s governors.
“In cities or states that are current hot spots, and you’ll see that in the map behind me, districts may need to delay reopening for a few weeks, and that’s possible,” he said. “That’ll be up to governors. The decision should be made based on the data and the facts on the grounds in each community, but every district should be actively making preparations to open.”
Trump’s insistence on reopening schools faced headwinds as the pandemic continues to rage, with the U.S. topping four million cases of the virus earlier on Thursday — a milestone that came only about two weeks after the country reached three million cases, a sign of an even more rapidly spreading virus than in the spring.
Across the country, the resurgence of cases has forced 12 states, and Puerto Rico, to step back in the reopening process, while 13 states have halted or delayed their plans, according to an ABC News analysis.
The president’s initial posture on reopening schools is backed by a majority of those within his own party, with 79% of Republicans supporting schools reopening with in-person teaching in the fall. Only about one in five Democrats, and 40% of independents say the same.
Meanwhile, schools across the nation are preparing and releasing plans for the school year in the midst of a pandemic. But as COVID-19 compelled schools to abruptly switch to remote learning, concerns over students falling behind breaks through partisan lines, with the poll finding no significant difference among Democrats, Republicans, and independents.
The debate over when to reopen schools comes also as teachers and parents across the country continue to voice worries about the risks of coming back to the classroom, and as anxiety across the country remains high. More than three-fourths of Americans (77%) are concerned about contracting the coronavirus, which tracks with levels from late June and May.
Concern among Republicans dropped 15 points since the last time the question was asked at the end of June, but there was a slight uptick among Democrats (99%) and independents (79%) from that poll, when 91% of Democrats and 73% of independents were worried.
Across the board, the country is still reticent to return to normal, with Americans showing similar levels of apprehension as June when it comes to partaking in a variety of activities.
Among activities that a majority are willing to do, eating at a restaurant (54%), staying in a hotel (51%), and going to work (78%) are all slightly down since the ABC News/Ipsos poll released on June 12. But going grocery shopping (94%), getting a haircut (67%), attending church (51%), and going to a shopping mall (51%) are staying steady.
Few Americans, however, are willing to go to a bar (27%), attend a sporting event (22%), go to the gym (28%), go to the movies (27%), go bowling (31%), fly on an airplane (33%), or attend a protest (17%).
The politicization of reopening the country is reflected in the new poll, with Republicans showing a far greater willingness than Democrats to do nearly every activity. The only activity Democrats are more willing to do is attend a protest.
This set of questions has been asked four times since ABC News/Ipsos began polling on the coronavirus in March, and in all four, Democrats, for the most part, continuously have a higher level of uneasiness compared to Republicans about returning to everyday life.
This ABC News/Ipsos poll was conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs‘ KnowledgePanel® July 22-23, 2020, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 543 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 4.9 points, including the design effect. See the poll’s topline results and details on the methodology here.
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.