RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – New polling shows most likely voters support requiring masks in North Carolina schools, as some local leaders reverse their mask-optional policies amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.
The latest Civitas poll released by the conservative John Locke Foundation found about 55 percent of likely voters favor the mask requirement while about 36 percent oppose it.
“With the uncertainty about the delta variant and whether it’s going to cause more problems than last year, I think that has some people on edge,” said Mitch Kokai, senior political analyst with the John Locke Foundation.
The finding mirrors recent national polls, including one released Monday by the Associated Press, that found about six in ten Americans favor students and teachers wearing masks in K-12 schools.
Kokai noted that Democrats and voters in urban areas were much more likely to support mask requirements in North Carolina compared to Republicans and rural voters who were more likely to oppose them.
Eighty-three percent of Democrats support mask mandates in schools, compared to 11 percent who oppose them. Meanwhile, 22 percent of Republicans support that requirement, while 65 percent oppose it.
When the pollsters specifically asked parents their opinion, 54 percent supported a mandate compared to 40 percent who opposed it.
The North Carolina School Boards Association reports at least 85 of the state’s 115 school districts are requiring masks.
Gov. Roy Cooper (D) has urged all of them to take that step, but he has not mandated it himself.
“You get more effective buy-in when it is done at the local level,” he said recently.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt (R) has advocated for local boards to have the authority to decide but recently said she wants “students in school this fall unmasked.”
Kokai said what stood out to him in their poll was that when asked who should ultimately decide if kids should be required to wear masks, the most popular answer was parents, with 45 percent choosing that.
“The one group that doesn’t get to make that sort of requirement,” he said. “It suggests to me that people are of more than one mind about this.”
About 20 percent of voters said Gov. Cooper should decide. Cooper said he hasn’t ruled out taking additional action himself but has continued to defer to local leaders on the issue while repeatedly asking them to mandate masks.