CORONAVIRUS

Most Americans Favor Mask Requirements, Poll Finds

There's widespread support for both government regulation and policies set by individual businesses.

Most Americans favor requirements to wear face masks in public, a HuffPost/YouGov survey finds.

By 62% to 28%, Americans say they’d favor a government rule in the area where they live requiring people to wear a face mask when they are in public and around other people. By 69% to 24%, they say they’d favor local stores instituting policies that require people to wear a face mask while shopping.

Meghan Griffin offers masks, gloves and hand sanitizer in front of a store Monday at the Garden State Plaza mall in Paramus,
Meghan Griffin offers masks, gloves and hand sanitizer in front of a store Monday at the Garden State Plaza mall in Paramus, New Jersey. New Jersey's indoor shopping malls reopened on Monday from their COVID-19 pause. 

The precise level of support varies along both partisan and demographic lines, with Democrats in denser areas most in favor of mask requirements and Republicans in less-dense areas the most resistant. Every group favors restrictions in stores by at least a small margin, with Republicans in towns and rural areas the only group to oppose a government rule.

Americans say, 62% to 29%, that deciding to wear a mask is a matter of public health rather than personal choice ― a result that’s identical to that of a previous HuffPost/YouGov poll in May.

A 44% plurality say doing so equally protects the wearer and others, with 10% believing it mostly protects the wearer, 27% that it mostly protects those around the wearer, and 13% that it carries no benefits at all.

Policies around mask-wearing have often flared into partisan battles. While Democratic politicians have broadly supported such policies, many Republican lawmakers have disregarded congressional mask guidelines. A number of other GOP leaders, meanwhile, have publicly advocated for face coverings: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said on the Senate floor that wearing them protects others and shouldn’t carry any stigma, while House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California urged Americans to wear masks.

Public opinion follows similar contours. While the issue is obviously polarized, it’s not quite a matter of Democrats versus Republicans; rather, it finds most Democrats and a substantial bloc of pro-mask Republicans pitted against a swath of opposition that stems largely from the GOP.

Polls often garner responses that are intended more as partisan signalling than as reflections of the respondents’ true actions or beliefs ― a sure sign that the topics in question have become political footballs. But even those Americans who are unlikely to wear masks themselves often stop short of the open ideological hostility seen at anti-mask protests. Those who rarely or never wear masks around others reject the framing as a public health issue, with 72% saying it’s a personal decision, and nearly 4 in 10 believe wearing masks carries no benefits. But just 16% of those infrequent mask-wearers say Trump administration figures shouldn’t wear masks, just 11% view mask-wearing as a sign of weakness and only 27% say they’re at all bothered by seeing others wearing masks.

Still, although mask-wearing has become remarkably common for a practice that was rare in the United States only months ago, it remains far from universal. Slightly more than half say of Americans say they always wear a mask or other face covering when they’re in public around other people ― for instance, while grocery shopping ― while an additional 16% do so most of the time and 23% once in a while or never. Only a quarter say they always wear masks while in public but away from others ― for instance, while walking in a quiet area ― while 21% say they do so most of the time and 48% that they do so once in a while or never.

(As we’ve written previously, these numbers deserve a few caveats: They rely on Americans’ self-reports of their own behavior and their own definitions for “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.)

About half of those who wear masks in public say they don’t feel judged in any way for wearing one, with 19% saying they feel they’re judged positively and just 9% that they face negative judgment. 

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 June 17-19 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.

HuffPost has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.

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.


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