Most voters support school mask, vaccine mandates, poll finds

Support for new virus restrictions edges up as Delta variant fuels virus surge

By: - August 23, 2021 11:00 am

Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, said opposition to New Jersey’s school mask mandate is “a decidedly minority view.” (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images)

New Jersey voters support requiring masking in schools, and just over half support mandating children over the age of 12 take the vaccine to attend in-person classes, a Monmouth University poll released Monday found.

Two-thirds of respondents, 67%, told pollsters they backed the schools mask mandate Gov. Phil Murphy announced in early August. Under those rules, students, faculty, and staff must mask in indoor school settings.

Support for a vaccine mandate is a little softer, though it still won backing from 53% of registered voters. A slightly smaller group, 45%, supported mandating vaccines for children under the age of 12.

The two-dose vaccine has been approved for use in children aged 12 and up. No COVID-19 vaccines have been greenlit for use in younger kids.

Support for school vaccine mandates was softer among parents, only 44% of whom approved of mandating middle and high school students be immunized against COVID-19. Just 39% backed the same for younger children.

“The vocal opposition to the state’s school mask mandate is a decidedly minority view. However, there may be greater pushback from parents if a vaccine mandate was instituted for school children,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Most voters, including clear majorities of Democrats (86%) and independents (58%), supported re-instating broader mask and social distancing mandates. Only 28% of Republican wanted to see those policies return.

Fears over family members catching the virus have risen slightly since May, from 37% to 43%, but 51% say New Jersey has done a better job at managing COVID than other American states. Just 17% said the Garden State had done a worse job checking the pandemic than other states.

“The delta variant has raised public concern,” Murray said. “But New Jerseyans look at what is happening in places like Florida and Texas and feel we have things under better control here.”

Murphy continued to get high marks on the pandemic. Just over six-in-10 voters, 61%, gave him positive marks for his handling of the virus, down slightly from the 64% recorded in a May Monmouth poll.

His job approval rating, at 51%, was down slightly from the 54% recorded three months earlier, and 41% of voters said they disapproved of the job Murphy was doing, though that’s virtually unchanged from the 40% who said so in June.

The number of voters who still plan to get vaccinated has fallen to worrying levels. Just 2% said they planned to get immunized as soon as possible, while 5% were waiting still to see if COVID-19 vaccinations were safe.

More than 5.3 million New Jerseyans have been fully vaccinated, and serious adverse reactions are exceedingly rare.

One-tenth of voters said they would never get vaccinated against COVID-19, though that number was a slightly higher 14% in May. Republicans, 18%, accounted for the largest share of those voters, followed by independents, 12%, and Democrats, 3%.

The poll sampled 810 registered voters between Aug. 11 and 16 and has a 3.5% margin of error.

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Nikita Biryukov
Nikita Biryukov

Nikita Biryukov most recently covered state government and politics for the New Jersey Globe. His tenure there included revelatory stories on marijuana legalization, voting reform and Rep. Jeff Van Drew's decamp to the Republican Party. Earlier, he worked as a freelancer for The Home News Tribune and The Press of Atlantic City.