Americans See Risk in Schools Reopening

The Verdict Is In – Parents Do Not Want A Full School Reopening

We thought the worst of COVID-19 was past us.  Wow, were we fooling ourselves—wishful thinking meets a virus.  Trump sees the writing on the walls—the numbers are ugly for him right now.  The election is only 109 days away.  He is panicked.


The Trump administration’s latest volley? Insisting that schools totally reopen in the fall. Unfortunately, once again, the administration finds itself on the wrong side of public opinion and science.

There is a certain logic to opening schools up in the fall—day-care for parents so jobs can be fully engaged; a sign of a return to normalcy; ensuring educational quality for our kids, among others.  But you can’t force-feed people: science is getting in the way; people are scared for their children.  Again, wishful thinking meets harsh reality.  Which will win—fantasy or reality?  No need to even ask, right?

Below I detail the data I feel is most relevant for the week.

  1. Risk but reward? Americans are continuing to venture out.  The data is clear.  But they still see risks everywhere in our COVID-19 world.  The pandemic has shaped our perspective on life and will well into our future.  We need to go out into the world, but ever so cautiously. Risk of return to normal life  
  2. Mitigating risk with masks. A large chunk of Americans are wearing masks most of the time when they go out.  This is only becoming more of the norm each day.  The effect of the virus has a funny way of level setting our expectations.  Yes, there are some partisan differences, but even these are attenuating as all America faces the crisis. Mask use
  3. Parents and students. This school thing is big. There are 48 million parents and 50 million kids. Parents make up almost 20% of the electorate. You get this wrong and you are toast politically.  Trump beware. Parents and the electorate
  4. School is a risk. All Americans—no matter their political stripes—see school this fall as being a significant risk.  Though there are some partisan differences, public opinion is clear on this point.  The Trump administration should tread lightly. Perceived risk of sending kids back to school
  5. Full opening no, partial maybe. Few American parents think schools should open up fully. Again, they want to mitigate the risk to their family.  It’s going totally virtual or some hybrid—in loco together with virtual. Parents prefer partial reopening

For more on schools reopening, see Margaret Talev’s most recent analysis of our Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index data. As I told her, “you can’t wish or scare away a virus.” We need to prepare for the fall accordingly. It’s clear that right now, parents don’t want to send their children back to school. What’s more, a majority of Republicans see risk in a return to schools and their pre-coronavirus lives. Trump and GOP politicians beware.

Finally, as always, be safe and be sane.