Parents’ COVID concerns for their children’s return to school track their concerns for themselves

August 30, 2021, 7:46 PM UTC

Like parent, like child. For parents with school-age children, concern about protecting themselves from the COVID-19 virus tracks their concern about their children. Worried parents in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll say they are concerned about both themselves and their children, and mask wearers want children to wear masks for in-person schooling. 

Most schoolchildren will be in classrooms at least some of the time this school year, and nearly all parents of school-age children (87%) say they prefer in-classroom instruction for their children for at least some of the time. Only about half of parents (52%) think children need to be required to wear masks in schools.

Parents of children in grades K-12 are wearing masks themselves at about the same frequency as all adults (55% of both groups say they wear masks some or all of the time outside the home). More frequent mask wearing means more support of mask wearing in schools (85% of those who say they always wore masks outside their home over the last week want masks mandated in the classroom).  

On the other hand, there is almost no support for mask mandates in schools (12%) among the one in four adults (23%) who say they haven’t worn a mask outside the home in the last week.  

Most parents of school-age children who are old enough to be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine have not had their children fully vaccinated. Among those with children 12 or older, an age group eligible for vaccination since May, just 41% say they have fully vaccinated their children. About the same percentage, 44%, say they will not get their child vaccinated (25%) or aren’t sure (19%).  

More parents of schoolchildren 12 and older (52%) are themselves fully vaccinated than have vaccinated their eligible children, including 47% of parents ages 30 to 44 and 59% of parents ages 45 to 64. But the vaccination rate for these parents is lower than the national total for adults in the same age groups (59% and 67%). 

A slightly greater share of parents of children who aren’t yet eligible for the vaccine say they intend to vaccinate their children than the share of parents whose children are already eligible and say their children are fully vaccinated (46% to 41%).

Many parents of children who will attend school in person are worried about their children’s risk of contracting COVID-19. Concern is particularly high among those parents who are concerned about contracting COVID-19 themselves. Nine in ten of them are (89%) very or somewhat worried about the infection risk to their children in school.

See the toplines and crosstabs from this Economist/YouGov poll 

Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 US Adult Citizens interviewed online between August 21 - 24, 2021. This sample was 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. The margin of error is approximately 2.7% for the overall sample.   

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