As schools in North Jersey prepare to unveil their plans for how they will operate this upcoming school year, a poll conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) shows uncertainty among Garden State residents on how they should proceed.
Overall, 46% believe schools should reopen with the appropriate protective measures in place as compared with 42% who support a return to online learning until a COVID-19 treatment or vaccine becomes available. But opinion is further divided across the state among different demographic groups on how schools should operate starting in September.
Among the groups that are hesitant about face-to-face instruction are women at 42%, younger adults at 35% and Democrats and Independents at 38%. Conversely, Republicans are the cohort expressing the most support for the return of children to the classroom at 60%.
Krista Jenkins, professor of politics and government and director of the FDU Poll, said the survey shows that decision makers are in a no-win situation when deciding what schooling option to choose.
“No matter how hard districts try, it’s going to be difficult to maintain social distancing and other safety measures in schools,” said Jenkins in a press statement. “And yet there’s plenty to be worried about with the continuation of online learning. A divided public recognizes the challenges on both sides.”
Another issue weighing on reopening the state, is how comfortable New Jersey adults are with resuming many of their pre-pandemic activities while the coronavirus is still a threat.
The survey shows many New Jerseyans are hesitant to go back to their old way of life in the absence of a COVID-19 vaccine or treatment. Only 23% would consider going to a movie theater; 45% will visit an indoor mall; and 39% would be willing to return to their houses of worship.
The only establishments that a majority of people say they are willing to visit are personal care salons that provide hair services and massages 51% and restaurants offering outdoor dining at 59%.
The public is split on if vaccinating all students should be mandatory, if and when a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available. Half say the coronavirus vaccine should be required, while 44% believe it should be a matter of personal choice.
There is a significant division along political parties as 62% of New Jersey Democrats believe the vaccine should be mandatory while 54% of the state’s Republicans think it should be voluntary.
The phone survey was conducted from June 18 through June 30, 2020 among a random sample of 809 New Jersey adults.