Most Americans favor remote education this fall

July 20, 2020, 1:35 PM UTC

Americans are struggling with how—or whether—the country should reopen businesses while keep the public safe (in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll the public says yes to outdoor dining, but no to bars). One area where there is clear resistance to an in-person reopening is the educational system. Unlike the President and his Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Americans reject exclusively in-person education this fall for both K-12 and college classes. Fewer than one in five say schools should reopen with full in-person attendance this fall. 

Parents of school-aged students give much the same responses as the nation overall to all in-person K-12 schooling this fall. While many are willing to have some in-person education, they would prefer a blending of in-classroom and online education, which is the working plan for schools in  New York City. should take place.  

Republicans are more likely to favor in-person learning this fall, but only one in three Republicans support all in-person education. 

For the most part, Americans would keep various parts of the economy closed, though there continues to be a partisan split. Two-thirds of Republicans would open indoor dining and public beaches, while a majority overall would not. Republicans are closely divided on reopening amusement parks, though two-thirds of the public overall would not do that. In addition, there is a clear party divide on opening churches: by nearly two to one Republicans would open them, by 53 percent to 39 percent, Americans overall would not.  

More than half of those in the Sun Belt—the South and West—see COVID-19 cases in their own communities going up, and for most of them, it is reopening the economy – not increased testing – that is to blame. In contrast, just one in four in the Northeast, and just over a third in the Midwest say community cases have increased.  

COVID-19: Personal Effects

But partisanship also affects perception. In those states with an increasing number of cases, 57 percent of Democrats but only a third of Republicans say COVID-19 cases are increasing in their communities. 

Three-quarters of those who see an increase in COVID-19 cases in their community believe it is due to reopening. Two in five people who see an increase of cases say it is because of increased testing (41%). Republicans (63%) who see an increase of cases blame testing, but more than half (54%) blame economic re-openings.  

There is continued support for making mask wearing mandatory, with GOP support rising seven points in the last week. Three in five (60%) of Republicans (71% of the public overall) favor making mask-wearing in public mandatory. 

The recent jumps in the South and West have affected the public’s perceptions of state government performance in battling the coronavirus. In April, the states received higher praise than the federal government on managing the pandemic. Now, evaluations of their performance, while still better than those of the federal government, have turned negative, with the most negative reviews coming from the South and the West.  

National and local government evaluations have also dropped in the last three months, as the pandemic continues. Local governments fare better, comparatively, though their evaluations are mixed.  

As for resident Donald Trump, 38 percent approve of his handling of the coronavirus, while 54 percent disapprove, an assessment not much difference from opinion over the last few weeks. By two to one, Americans say they distrust Trump’s medical advice (by a somewhat smaller margin (46% to 28%), they also distrust medical advice from presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden. The Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci, is trusted by 52 percent, distrusted by 20 percent, though just about as many Republicans distrust him as trust him. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fare best: majorities of all groups trust the agency’s medical advice. 

See the toplines and crosstabs from this week’s Economist/YouGov Poll 

Methodology: The most recent Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 U.S. adult citizens interviewed online between July 12 - 14, 2020. The approximate margin of error is 3.3 percentage points for the overall sample. Samples are weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the US Bureau of the Census, as well as 2016 Presidential vote, registration status, geographic region, and news interest. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all US citizens.    

Image: Getty