By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – Amid mounting public anxiety over the COVID-19 resurgence, there are signs of a backlash against politicians who have refused to allow local governments and schools to impose mask mandates.

Foremost among them: Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas), who says, “Kids will not be forced by governments or by schools to wear a mask in school,” and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Florida), who adds “It’s about parental choice, not government mandate.” (Abbott tested positive for COVID-19 his office announced on Tuesday.)

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These two also happen to be governors of two of the nation’s worst covid hotspots. Their positions have drawn lawsuits and stirred protest. But with hospitals in both states filling up with COVID-19 patients and early-opening schools sending home scores of infected or exposed kids just days into the school year, there’s fresh evidence their masking bans are backfiring politically.

“If you’re coming after the rights of parents in Florida, I’m standing in your way. I’m not gonna let you get away with it!” said DeSantis the other day to cheers from his sycophants. But despite the applause, DeSantis’s Florida approval rating has dipped sharply, slipping well below 50 percent.

And the national tide is running against anti-mandate policies.

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In new national polling from Axios/Ipsos, support for government mask mandates in public places is up to 64%, 69% for mandates in schools. Accordingly, support for state bans on mask mandates is down to 33%, with two-thirds of the public opposing them.

And there’s a growing list of school districts openly defying those bans in Florida, Texas and elsewhere, drawing praise from President Joe Biden, who says: “To the mayors, school superintendents, educators, local leaders who are standing up to the governors politicizing mask protections for our kids, thank you.”

As we’ve seen so often in recent years, this dispute breaks down along partisan lines. However, while there is majority Republican support for mandate bans, the numbers aren’t quite as large as the opposition from Democrats and Independents.

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And one of Gov. DeSantis’s moves – threatening to cut funding for schools that go ahead with mask mandates anyway – seems to draw bipartisan opposition. Three-quarters of non-college-educated white voters – the heart of the conservative Republican base – tell the pollsters they oppose that move.

Jon Keller