Is it the right time to reopen schools? Most parents reject full-time, in-person classes

Parents are not ready to have their children attend school full-time, in-person this fall.  

Much like the general public as a whole, parents of school-aged children prefer remote learning or some combination of remote and in-person education, according to the latest Economist/YouGov Poll. Even parents who say childcare would be difficult for them if all learning was remote (39%)  still do not support all in-person learning. 

There is a partisan difference among what education options parents support. A quarter of Republican parents (26%) favor all in-person classrooms this fall, while just 6 percent of Democratic parents do. Many parents would accept a hybrid education this fall, dividing the classes between online and in-person. 

The Trump administration, including Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, has been pushing for full-time in-person education and have said it is safe.  Parents — and Americans in general — don’t want to hear medical advice from Secretary DeVos. Less than a quarter of parents (23%) say they would trust her medical advice; nearly a third (31%) distrust it. 

COVID-19: School Reopening

If the issue is in-person education or no in-person classes at all, parents are more likely to reject in-person education than to accept it. One-third (34%) want their children to attend at least some classes this fall, but 49% say they don’t. Parents under the age of 45 reject in-person education by nearly two to one, older parents favor it (45% to 38%). A majority of Republican parents (57%), much like the president and DeVos, want in-person education for their children. 

In-person schooling requires parents to trust teachers, students, and other parents to take precautions to stop the COVID-19 spread. Parents trust teachers to keep their children safe, but do not necessarily trust students to practice social distancing—or trust other parents to keep their sick children at home.  

Like many other Americans, parents don’t believe it will be safe to open the economy fully without a vaccine, something most don’t expect until 2021 at the earliest.  

Would they get their children and themselves vaccinated? More would allow their children to be vaccinated than to get the vaccine themselves. By nearly two to one (45% to 23%), parents would allow their children to be vaccinated against COVID-19. As for themselves, two in five (39%) parents personally would get vaccinated, but three in 10 parents (30%) would not.   

One in five parents who say they personally would not get the vaccine would let their school-aged children be vaccinated. Parents generally believe vaccines are safe (85% say this), and like the rest of the country, most support requiring parents to have their children vaccinated against infectious diseases.  

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

MethodologyThe most recent Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 US adult citizens interviewed online between July 19 - 21, 2020. The approximate margin of error is 3.2 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