After a year of pandemic, Texas voters more open to sending kids to school, poll finds

Photo does not have a caption

Texas voters have settled into pandemic life, but their attitudes about what’s risky and what’s not have changed considerably when it comes to sending kids to school, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

A majority (55%) consider it safe to “send your child to school,” up from 45% in the October 2020 UT/TT Poll and 35% in the June survey.

That’s one of a half-dozen activities the majority of Texas registered voters consider safe: going grocery shopping (78%), getting haircuts (66%), going to work (65%), staying in a hotel (62%) and eating at a restaurant (55%).

“You’re not seeing people feeling safer doing things,” said Joshua Blank, research director for the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin. “The only change is sending kids to schools. The story is still the same.”

A number of other activities were considered unsafe by a majority of voters, like attending church (48%), going to a shopping mall (48%), flying on a plane (40%), attending an outdoor concert or sporting event (40%), going to a movie (38%), going to a health club or gym (37%), going to a bar or club (30%) or attending an indoor concert or sporting event (29%).

Republican voters are more willing than Democrats to risk getting out and about. A majority of Republican voters said they feel safe doing any of those things — with the exception of attending indoor concerts and sporting events; only 48% would do that.

A majority of Democrats were unwilling to do anything on the list other than grocery shopping (66%), though almost half would venture out for a haircut.

Some of the differences were huge. While 77% of Republicans consider it safe to send kids to school, only 31% of Democrats do, a 46 percentage-point gap. Attending church feels safe to 75% of Republicans and only 17% of Democrats. The people you see going to restaurants, shopping at the mall, at the movies, in a gym or in a bar are — if their comfort during a pandemic is the guide — more likely to be Republicans than Democrats.