FDU Poll: Jerseyans split on whether kids should return to school — and whether they will go into certain businesses

Nearly half of the respondents to an FDU PublicMind poll released Thursday feel K-12 schools should reopen this fall with the appropriate protective measures in place. And a similar percentage of respondents support a return to online learning until a COVID-19 treatment or vaccine becomes available.

It’s nearly a statistical tie, as 46% are in favor a return and 42% are against. And the numbers are similar when broken down by various demographic groups.

Least supportive of resuming face-to-face instruction are women (42%), younger adults (35%) and Democrats and independents (38%). Republicans are the group most supportive of returning to the classroom, with 60% in favor of doing so.

Krista Jenkins, a professor of political science at the school and the executive director of the poll, said school districts are in a tough spot.

“These findings show that this really is a no-win situation,” she said. “No matter how hard districts try, it’s going to be difficult to maintain social distancing and other safety measures in schools. And, yet, there’s plenty to be worried about with the continuation of online learning.

“A divided public recognizes the challenges on both sides.”

The phone survey was conducted from June 18-30, among a random sample of 809 New Jersey adults.

The public is also divided on the question of whether vaccinating all students should be mandatory, if and when a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available. Half say the coronavirus vaccine should be required, while 44% believe it should be a matter of personal choice.

Just as politics colors opinions on whether to reopen schools or remain online, there are also big partisan differences on this issue. Almost two-thirds of New Jersey Democrats (62%) believe the vaccine should be mandatory, while a majority of the state’s Republicans (54%) think it should be voluntary.

The indecision is reflected on whether individuals would be willing to go to certain businesses, too.

Jenkins said the survey shows that many are hesitant to go back to their old way of life in the absence of a COVID-19 vaccine or treatment.

Only 23% would consider going to a movie theater; less than half (45%) will visit an indoor mall and 39% would be willing to return to their houses of worship. The only establishments that a majority of people say they are willing to visit are personal care salons that provide hair services and massages (51%) and restaurants, including those offering outdoor dining (59%).

The survey was conducted by the Fairleigh Dickinson University Poll with a random sample of 809 New Jersey adult, ages 18 and older, live callers on both landlines and cellular phones, between June 18 and June 30. The simple sampling error for 809 New Jersey adults is +/-3.8 percentage points (including the design effect) at a 95% confidence interval.

The full analysis, along with the poll’s questions and tables and a detailed methodological statement, can be found on the FDU Poll website.

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