A poll of local residents in more than a dozen counties in this region found a deep divide on these issues.By Jon Delano

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Southwestern Pennsylvanians support a mandatory mask requirement in schools but are cool to the idea of mandatory vaccines. As political editor Jon Delano explains, that’s the latest result of a public opinion poll in this region.

Just before schools opened and President Biden announced mandatory COVID vaccinations for many, Public Opinion Strategies conducted a poll on behalf of Pittsburgh Works Together, an association of both labor and company leaders.

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The poll of local residents in more than a dozen counties in this region found a deep divide on these issues.

On the issue of mandatory mask requirements for school children, this region splits in several ways.

Some 55 percent of area residents say yes to making kids wear masks in school, but the poll found a partisan divide with 81 percent of Democrats supporting the mask mandate but only 21 percent of Republicans on board.

“There’s a long tradition of Republicans disliking anything mandatory, and this one’s no excuse,” says pollster Gene Ulm.

Politics may also explain the variation among the counties, too.

For example, support for a school mask mandate is very high in Allegheny County — 67 percent — but drops to 46 percent in counties to the south like Washington and Westmoreland and 43 percent in counties to the north like Beaver and Butler.

The poll found other differences, too.

“There are some gender and age differences as well. The data show that women are much more likely to support children wearing masks in public schools; so are seniors, believe it or not,” says Ulm.

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In Pennsylvania, school children are required to be vaccinated against polio, measles, mumps, tetanus, chickenpox, and other diseases but not against COVID.

This poll found only 46 percent support making the COVID vaccine mandatory for school children. The strongest support is in Allegheny County where 52 percent like the idea but that drops to 41 percent in southern counties and 40 percent in northern counties.

Again, the political divide is strong on mandatory vaccines for kids with nearly two-thirds of Democrats supporting the idea but only one out of five Republicans agreeing.

With President Biden focused on increasing the number of vaccinated Americans, the issue of making vaccinations a condition of employment is now front and center.

Across the region, only 45 percent support a mandatory COVID vaccine in the workplace, but in Allegheny County, a slight majority — 52 percent — likes the idea. That support drops to 43 percent in counties to the south and 35 percent in counties to the north.

There is also a clear divide on this issue, depending on your political party.

Some 68 percent of Democrats like mandatory vaccines for employees, while only 17 percent of Republicans think the same.

And age makes a difference, too, with 60 percent of seniors backing the idea, while only 41 percent of those under 35 supporting mandatory workplace vaccines.

For many Americans, mandatory vaccines will be a requirement in the weeks ahead.

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Companies have always been free to require vaccines if certain exceptions and accommodations are made for those who object, and, full disclosure, CBS is requiring all employees to be vaccinated, too.