An increasingly broad majority of Americans are wearing masks in public, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll, which finds far more of a consensus on the benefits of masks than high-profile skirmishing over the issue might suggest. Democrats, especially, are prone to overstate the level of GOP opposition to masks, the survey finds.
Seventy-seven percent of Americans say that, generally speaking, people should wear face masks around others. Wearing a mask in public, 70% say, is more a matter of public health than it is a personal choice. A similar 71% say they would favor a government rule where they live requiring people to wear a face mask when in public around other people.
A 71% majority of Americans now say they always wear a mask or other face covering when out in public and around others, such as at the grocery store, with 84% saying they do so most of the time. A majority also say they mostly wear masks when outside but not around others, such as when taking a walk.
As we’ve written previously, these numbers have a few caveats: They rely on people self-reporting their own behavior and each individual’s definition of “most of the time.” They’re also potentially subject to social desirability bias ― people may be inclined to overreport or underreport their mask-wearing if they feel as though their actual behavior isn’t in line with what others think they should be doing.
But, with more states implementing some version of a mask requirement, the results do find the acceptance of masks on the rise. In mid-June, a HuffPost/YouGov poll found that support for government rules requiring face masks stood at 62%, and a slim 54% majority of Americans reported always wearing masks around others.
Between June and July, the share saying they always wear a mask in public around others rose 19 points among Democrats, 11 points among Republicans and 21 points among independents.
There are still significant partisan divides: Democrats are 20 points likelier than Republicans to say they always wear masks when in public near others, and 30 points likelier to view the decision as a matter of public health.
But although opposition to masks is concentrated squarely within the GOP, it’s distinctly a minority opinion even among Republicans. Democrats are close to universally supportive, saying by an overwhelming 92% to 5% margin that people should generally wear masks when in public around others. Republicans agree by a less unanimous but still substantial margin, 68% to 18%.
This widespread, bipartisan support for masks is at odds with the heated, frequently partisan debate that’s often surrounded the issue.
Perhaps for that reason, most Democrats underestimate how much support mask-wearing actually has, particularly among the opposing party. Only 31% of Democrats think that most or all Republicans believe that people should wear face masks around others; a 65% majority of Republicans think that support for mask-wearing is the majority view within their party.
People often follow the cues of their leaders in determining which political positions are characteristic of someone in their party. But President Donald Trump’s messaging on the topic has been markedly inconsistent. After months during which he openly resisted appearing with a mask, Trump finally wore one in public during an appearance this month; he later tweeted a photograph of himself masked, writing that “many people say that it is Patriotic to wear a face mask when you can’t socially distance.” Since then, he has continued to appear in public unmasked.
That incongruity is enough for partisans to take away widely disparate messages. A 57% majority of Republicans say they believe Trump supports mask-wearing, while only 20% of Democrats say the same.
Use the widget below to further explore the results of the HuffPost/YouGov survey, using the menu at the top to select survey questions and the buttons at the bottom to filter the data by subgroups.
The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted July 21-23 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.
Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some but not all potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate.