Athens Middle School

Athens Middle School. Photo by Ben Peters.

More than half of southern Ohioans say it’s safe to open elementary, middle, and high schools in the fall, while 36 percent think it’s unsafe, a new Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday shows.

And that sentiment is largely the same across the entire state. Statewide, 49 percent of respondents think it’s safe, while 42 percent don’t, according to the poll.

“Ohio is unique. In other states where we poll, more than half of the respondents do not think it’s safe to send students back to school,” Quinnipiac University Polling analyst Tim Malloy wrote in an email to The Athens NEWS.

In a June 3 Texas poll where Quinnipiac University asked respondents the same questions about schooling, 48 percent said it’s unsafe to send students to K-12 schools, while 45 percent said it was safe.

“It’s a number that hits home. Nearly half of Texans are thinking twice about putting their kids on the school bus,” Malloy said at the time.

A Politico/Morning Consult national poll also released Wednesday shows that 54 percent of American voters are either somewhat uncomfortable or very uncomfortable reopening K-12 schools in the fall, according to Politico. But when broken down statewide along partisan lines, Ohioans remain divided on the issue. Sixty-seven percent of Republicans say it’s safe to send kids to K-12 school and 62 percent of Democrats think otherwise, according to the Quinnipiac poll.

There’s also a gender divide. More than half of men think it’s safe to send students to K-12 school, while 48 percent of women don’t, according to the poll.

Ohioans, however, are more in line with the rest of the country on whether college students should return to campus in the fall. Fifty-three percent of southern Ohioans think it’s safe for students to attend college in the fall, while 32 percent think it’s unsafe, the poll shows.

And statewide, 52 percent of respondents believe sending students to college is safe, while 39 percent don’t, the poll said.

Both the Quinnipiac Texas poll and the Politico/Morning Consult national poll show most voters think it’s safe to send students back to college in the fall. Ohioans also remain divided along partisan lines on that issue. Seventy-two percent of Republicans and more than half of independent voters think it’s safe, but 60 percent of Democrats disagree, according to the Quinnipiac Ohio poll.

Ohio University is tentatively planning to move forward with reopening campus this fall, but the administration is still working to iron out a finalized plan, and it’s unclear when the plan will be released, according to a previous Athens NEWS report. In attempt to ensure safety at OU, there will likely be several regulations in place, such as a shortened in-person semester, rearranged student housing, required mask wearing and altered dining hall operations.

Also induced in Quinnipiac’s Ohio poll, more than half of respondents from southern Ohio feel comfortable eating in a restaurant, but 63 percent say they’re uncomfortable going to a bar.

Statewide, more than half of young respondents ages 18-34 are uncomfortable going to a bar, despite many bars regularly being crowded with young people at reduced capacity.

Respondents from southern Ohio also overwhelmingly approve of Gov. Mike DeWine’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the poll said.

But the region is divided on whether President Donald Trump or Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, would handle the pandemic response better. Forty-eight percent of respondents chose Trump, while 45 percent picked Biden, according to the poll.

The Quinnipiac University poll, which was conducted between June 18 and June 22, asked 1,139 self-identified registered voters across the state numerous questions about hot-button current issues ranging from the pandemic to the upcoming presidential election. Its margin of error was plus or minus 2.9 percent, according to the polling methodology.

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