Americans Nearly Split on Remote Learning as U.S. Teachers Push for Classroom Closures

In a new poll, a slight majority of Americans said schools should move to remote learning to prevent teachers and students from being exposed to COVID-19.

A Harris Poll provided exclusively to Axios and released Wednesday found 56 percent of U.S. adults said they support remote learning due to the risk of COVID exposure. Meanwhile, 44 percent of respondents said it's more important to keep classrooms open for in-person learning to not cause interruptions in students' education.

empty classroom
A new poll found Americans are split on the question of remote learning. This undated stock image shows an empty classroom. tiero/Getty Images

Younger people and parents with children under the age of 18 were more likely to say they chose the "health and safety" of remote learning over in-person classes. More than 60 percent of Generation Z, millennial and Generation X respondents said they favored remote learning over teachers and students being in classrooms, and 62 percent of parents with children young than 18 said the same.

Respondents who identified as boomers were less likely to say they supported remote learning over in-person classes. Forty-eight percent of these respondents, who are classified in age as 57 years old and older, said they supported remote learning.

The poll also revealed people with larger incomes tended to be less likely to support remote learning. Forty-nine percent of respondents who had annual incomes of $100,000 or more said they supported remote learning over in-person classes, compared to 58 percent of respondents who made $50,000 to $99,000 annually who said the same.

Meanwhile, 63 percent of respondents who made less than $50,000 said they support remote learning over in-person classes to protect the health of teachers and students.

The poll results also showed a sharp political divide. Democrats overwhelmingly said they preferred remote learning as a means to protect children and school staff, while Republicans mostly did not support such measures.

Seventy percent of Democrats said schools should move to remote learning to protect the health and safety of teachers and students, while only 37 percent of GOP respondents said the same. Fifty-seven percent of respondents who identified as independents supported the move to remote learning.

The poll comes as teacher unions across the country push for remote learning in the wake of a COVID surge caused by the Omicron variant. Several nonunion schools and districts also temporarily transitioned to remote learning following the recent holiday season. On the other hand, many school district leaders and educators have also argued for the importance of schools remaining open.

President Joe Biden has said that schools should remain open despite the recent COVID surge.

"We know that our kids can be safe when in school, by the way," Biden said during a January 4 briefing before the White House COVID-19 Response Team. "That's why I believe schools should remain open. They have what they need."

The Harris Poll survey of 2,093 U.S. adults was conducted January 7 to 9.