By ANTHONY MAN
SOUTH FLORIDA SUN SENTINEL | <== links to article online
A public opinion poll released Thursday provided new evidence that Floridians are gravely concerned about the current surge in COVID-19 cases, think it was largely preventable, and support requiring masks in public schools to protect public health.
The Quinnipiac University Poll also found many Floridians aren’t happy with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ pandemic performance.
A significant majority — including more than half of voters in his own Republican Party — oppose the governor’s efforts to punish school leaders who have defied the governor and implemented mask mandates.
DeSantis’ move to withhold salaries of school leaders for mandating masks for students is a “bad idea” to 69% of Floridians and a “good idea” to 25%. Just 38% of Republicans thought it was a good idea and 54% said it was a bad one.
Most people also disagree with another DeSantis move: banning local governments from imposing mask mandates. The poll found more than two-thirds of Florida adults think local officials should be able to require masks in indoor public spaces.
Most Floridians support requiring masks in schools.
But different levels of support emerged in two Quinnipiac Poll questions with somewhat different wording. Overall support for school mask mandates was higher than when it was phrased as a question of who should have the authority to make the decision, schools or parents.
”Do you support or oppose requiring students, teachers and staff to wear masks in schools?” The results were 60% support and 36% oppose.
Do you think schools should be able to require masks for all students, or do you think parents should decide whether or not their won student will be wearing a mask?” Pollsters found 54% of respondents though schools should make the decision and 44% said it should be up to parents.
Christina Pushaw, DeSantis press secretary, said by email the governor “bases his policy preferences on empirical evidence, not public opinion polling.
“Florida law does not ban masks — it merely protects parents’ rights to choose whether their own child wears a mask to school or not. Those who want their children to wear masks to school have the right to make that choice for their children. They do not have the right to force-mask other parents’ children. Anecdotally, some children do not have problems wearing masks 8 hours a day, but others do. Every child is different, and that’s why Governor DeSantis opposes -one-size-fits-all’ mandates,” Pushaw said. “The CDC’s forced-masking advocacy is not supported by data.”
Overall, Quinnipiac found, 63% of Floridians said the issue of mask wearing was primarily about public health, and 33% see it is an issue of personal freedom. Republicans felt differently, with 58% regarding mask wearing as an issue of personal freedom and 39% as a matter of public health.
This story will be updated, so please check back for updates. Click here to have breaking news alerts sent directly to your inbox.