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Most Arizona voters support masks in schools, but not Republicans

A strong majority of Arizona voters — but only a small fraction of Republicans — support face mask mandates and vaccine requirements in schools and government buildings to combat the spread of COVID-19, according to a new poll commissioned by organizations representing school boards and public health professionals.

In the live-caller poll of 400 voters deemed likely to vote in next year’s general election, 57% of respondents said people should definitely or probably be required to wear face masks in local government facilities, and public schools. Nearly 41% said people should not be required to wear masks in those settings.

And 53% of respondents said those institutions should also be allowed to determine their own policies on face mask mandates, compared to nearly 43% who said they shouldn’t.

The poll was conducted by the Republican lobbying and political consulting firm HighGround on Aug. 30 and 31.

A new state law that goes into effect on Sept. 29 prohibits district and charter schools from requiring face masks. Several education and other advocacy groups, including the Arizona School Boards Association, which commissioned the poll, are challenging that law in court.

Voters took a similar view of vaccine mandates. Nearly 54% said private businesses should be able to require employees to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19, while 42% said employers shouldn’t be permitted to do that. And more than 52% said local governments and public schools should be able to impose that requirement, compared to nearly 45% who said they shouldn’t have that power.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s office issued an opinion last month stating that private businesses may impose vaccine mandates on employees, but that local governments and schools cannot. In a separate finding, the attorney general concluded on Tuesday that Tucson’s requirement that city employees be vaccinated is illegal

Republicans oppose masks in schools, vaccine requirements

There was a pronounced partisan split in the responses. Democrats favored the proposed policies on masking and vaccines, while Republicans were largely opposed.

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For example, 92% of democrats supported requiring masks in schools and government buildings, while 70% of Republicans opposed the idea. More than 87% of Democrats supported the idea of schools and local governments requiring employees to be vaccinated, compared to just 25% of Republicans. And nearly 85% of Democrats believed private businesses should be able to require vaccinations of their employees, compared to only 29% of Republicans. 

The split was less pronounced on the issue of allowing schools and local governments to set their own policies on masking. Nearly 57% of Democrats supported the idea, compared to 48% of Republicans.

The poll was commissioned by the Arizona School Boards Association and the Arizona Public Health Association. 

“As the Delta variant continues (to) increase the wave of cases and hospitalizations in Arizona, voters clearly understand the importance of masks when it comes to health and public safety,” APHA Executive Director Will Humble said in a press statement about the poll.

HighGround surveyed 400 likely general election voters by cell phone and landline. Forty-two percent of the respondents were Republicans, 34% were Democrats and 24% were independents and others.

This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.

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