A growing majority of voters oppose the Trump administration’s demand that schools and colleges fully open for in-person instruction, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll.
In the survey of nearly 2,000 registered voters, 59 percent said they oppose fully reopening K-12 schools for the beginning of the academic year. Those numbers are up from polling last month that showed 53 percent opposed.
With slightly less resistance to the idea of in-person learning for younger and older students, 56 percent of respondents said this month that they are against fully reopening daycares, in contrast to 53 percent in July’s survey. For reopening colleges and universities, 57 percent said they were opposed, up from 50 percent in the previous poll.
While Senate Republicans have proposed setting aside tens of billions of dollars in new funding for schools that reopen, pluralities of registered voters believe federal money for schools should neither be increased nor decreased, regardless of whether they open virtually or for in-person instruction.
If schools resort to virtual instruction, 42 percent of Democrats and 45 percent of Republicans said federal funding should remain unchanged. Another 23 percent of Republicans said, however, that federal dollars should be decreased for those schools.
During now-stalled negotiations over what the next round of coronavirus relief could entail, GOP lawmakers have argued that schools that reopen during the coronavirus pandemic would need more funding than those that remain closed.
The new polling results come as President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos continue to push for reopening schools, even as the spread of coronavirus worsens in many regions. During a Monday briefing, Trump suggested coronavirus cases among kids make up a “tiny, tiny fraction of death” and said children “get better very quickly.”
“I think it’s a very important thing for the economy to get the schools going,” he said.
As Trump woos suburban voters, the new poll shows 60 percent of that electorate said they are against fully opening K-12 schools for in-person instruction this fall, with similar opposition to reopening daycares and colleges.
“Over half of suburban voters oppose the idea of reopening K-12 schools in person for the new academic year, at odds with President Trump encouraging the contrary,” said Kyle Dropp, co-founder and chief research officer at Morning Consult. “Three-quarters of suburban voters also think federal funding should be either maintained or increased for schools choosing to open virtually.”
The poll also examined student loan policies as Congress debates action to help those borrowers during the pandemic. While 85 percent of Democrats said they support allowing borrowers to defer payments — interest-free — for six months, a lesser 78 percent of independents support that plan and 75 percent of Republicans back it.
Trump on Saturday signed an executive action continuing the pause on monthly payments and interest for many federal student loan borrowers until the end of the year.
A narrower majority of voters, at 53 percent, support a plan presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has endorsed to cancel up to $10,000 in student loan debt for each borrower. The poll showed most Democrats support that plan, but independents and Republicans are split.
A group of 16 Democratic lawmakers and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) sent a letter Tuesday to Senate leaders, calling for the pause on student loan payments to be extended to another 8 million borrowers who have not been granted relief during the pandemic and for the next coronavirus relief package to extend the payment freeze for the duration of the economic crisis.
Morning Consult is a global data intelligence company, delivering insights on what people think in real time by surveying tens of thousands across the globe every single day.
Juan Perez Jr. contributed to this story.