Virginia’s local school districts have generally handled the COVID-19 crisis effectively, a new University of Mary Washington statewide survey reveals.
Asked to rate COVID policies in their local school districts on an A-to-F scale, where A is excellent, C is adequate and F signifies a failure, 12 percent of respondents gave their local districts an A, 22 percent said B, and 27 percent favored a C grade. Only 11 percent offered an F grade, while 11 percent said their local district deserved a D grade for its COVID policies. The rest were undecided.
The 1,000-person poll of Virginia adults was conducted for UMW by Research America Inc. from Sept. 7 to 13.
“For weeks we have been seeing and reading in the news about parents angrily protesting local COVID policies,” said Stephen J. Farnsworth, professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington and director of UMW’s Center for Leadership and Media Studies. “This survey demonstrates that those loud voices are very unrepresentative ones.”
Forty percent of the survey’s respondents said their local school district’s policies relating to COVID were just about right, as compared to 18 percent who said their local district was too strict and 20 percent who said it was too lenient, with the rest undecided.
Overall, 39 percent of Virginians said the Commonwealth has handled the COVID crisis better than most states, with another 39 percent saying the Commonwealth has performed about as well as the rest of the country. Only a sliver of Virginians surveyed –15 percent – said Virginia has handled COVID worse than other states have.
On the question of whether the federal government should impose a nationwide vaccine mandate, Virginians were equally split, with 45 percent supporting the idea and 45 percent opposed to it.
In the survey, health care/COVID is seen as the most important problem currently facing the nation; 31 percent of respondents ranked it in first place. The economy/jobs, also impacted by the pandemic, ranked second, with 19 percent selecting it as the top priority. Immigration placed third, with 12 percent of survey respondents naming it as the most important matter.
The survey revealed a gender gap in COVID policy evaluations. Among men, 22 percent considered local school district policies too strict, as compared to 15 percent of women.
Those who had not received a COVID vaccine were more critical, with 25 percent saying their local school district was too strict. Among the vaccinated, only 15 percent said their district’s COVID policies were too strict.
Small regional differences emerged in public assessment of school districts. In the Northwest region of Virginia, 22 percent of respondents said their local school district was too strict in its COVID policies, as did 20 percent of those surveyed from Northern Virginia and 19 percent from the Commonwealth’s South-Central region. A somewhat smaller percentage of Tidewater residents objected to the approach taken in their local school districts, with only 14 percent saying COVID policies were too strict. In the Western region, 16 percent objected to the severity of COVID policies in their local school districts.
“While many people have been frustrated over the profound educational challenges posed by the pandemic, this survey shows that the vast majority of Virginians in every part of the state favor the path their local school districts have taken in response to this once-in-a-century crisis,” Farnsworth said.
The University of Mary Washington’s Virginia Survey Fall 2021 was conducted by Research America Inc. Sept. 7-13, 2021. The total sample included 1,000 Virginia residents, including 885 registered voters and 528 likely voters. Part of the sample (600) was contacted by phone (80 percent cell and 20 percent landline), and part of the sample (400) was contacted online. All interviews were in English. Statistical results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies, including age, gender and race/ethnicity. The margin of error on the total sample is ±3.1%. The margin of error on the likely voters portion of the sample is ±4.1%.
For further survey results, see Topline, or read yesterday’s story, Gubernatorial Candidates Locked in Close Contest, UMW Survey Shows.
For more information, or to schedule an interview, contact Professor Farnsworth at email@example.com.