Nearly two-thirds of U.S. families are in favor of following the science and want students and staff to mask up.

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Despite being recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) as a key way to reduce the spread of COVID-19, masks in schools have become a matter of fierce debate recently. And from anti-mask protests to drama-filled school board meetings, it's clear that some parents (and state officials) are ready to fight that expert guidance tooth and nail.

Despite vocal opponents, however, those in favor of school mask mandates account for a larger percentage of U.S. families than you might think.

An image of children with masks on while entering their school with their parents.
Credit: Getty Images.

A newly released poll from Momentive and Axios, which sampled 38,251 adults, found that most parents (59 percent) of school-aged children support mask mandates for all students and staff. That's nearly twice as many who oppose any in-school mask mandate (30 percent). And 10 percent of parents of children ages 5 to 17 support mask mandates for any unvaccinated student or staff.

Momentive and Axios further analyzed the data and found some key trends:

  • Mask mandates appear to be partisan. Most Democratic parents (85 percent) polled supported mask mandates, compared to only 32 percent of Republican parents. Meanwhile, 56 percent of Republicans, 24 percent of independents, and 4 percent of Democrats disagree with all mask mandates at their child's school. The poll delved deeper into the data, revealing that Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to fear that the school year starting up sans universal masking will increase COVID cases (88 percent to 41 percent).
  • Houses might be divided. Moms are more likely to support mask mandates than dads, the poll found. Though two-thirds of mothers say they support mandated face coverings for all students and staff, only 50 percent of fathers polled agreed. Women (81 percent) were also more likely than men (56 percent) to say that they were worried about a spike in COVID as the school year begins.
  • Geography matters. Some states have stronger opposition to mask mandates than the rest of the country. According to the poll, parents of school-aged children in Colorado (37 percent), Iowa (44 percent), Minnesota (38 percent), and Ohio (43 percent) have some of the strongest opposition to mask mandates.

What parents want for their children and what the school board or state decides on are sometimes two separate things. Momentive and Axios also asked parents what their children's school planned to do about masks this year.

  • Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas tried to ban mask mandates in schools (Abbott's was temporarily halted). Despite this, about half of the parents in these states said their kids would be required to wear masks this year.
  • In North Carolina (78 percent) and Illinois (87 percent), the overwhelming majority of parents reported their schools imposed mask mandates.
  • Only 13 percent of Iowa parents say their child's school has a mask requirement.

As aforementioned, this past July, the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that all students and staff wear masks, regardless of vaccination status. Experts, like Vivek Cherian, M.D., support the guidance.

"Given that a large part of the K-12 population is unvaccinated, it is absolutely vital for schools to keep mask mandates in place," Dr. Cherian, an internal medicine physician affiliated with the University of Maryland Medical System, told Parents in July. "This is not a question of body autonomy, but rather a responsibility to keep our children—especially those that don't have the vaccine available to them as yet—safe and provide them the best odds against contracting COVID."