WASHINGTON, Aug. 21, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Today, the COVID Collaborative, a platform for bringing experts in health, education and the economy together with state and local leaders to solve challenges associated with the coronavirus, released a national poll showing that mask mandates are extremely effective in getting Americans to wear face coverings when they might not do so on their own. The poll finds large support for mask mandates at the federal, state, and local levels, across party lines.
The poll finds that large majorities of Americans support mandates requiring people to wear face coverings, including majorities of Republicans. Fully 87% of Americans approve of stores requiring customers to wear masks, and large majorities approve of government mandates: 80% approve of their local government requiring everyone in their community to wear a mask when in public, 80% approve of their state government having a mask requirement, and 78% approve of the federal government having a mask requirement. Sizable majorities of Republicans approve of stores requiring customers to wear masks (76%) and approve of their local government (63%), state government (63%), and the federal government (62%) requiring people to wear masks. Democrats and Independents overwhelmingly endorse these requirements.
Despite widespread support for mask mandates, mask usage remains inconsistent. While a large majority of Americans report they wear masks while shopping, compliance with mask recommendations is far less consistent in other settings. Only half of Americans report wearing a mask at least 90% of the time in settings outside the home when they might encounter other people. Less than half report wearing a mask a large majority of the time when they are walking down the street of their city or town.
These attitudes and behaviors exist against a backdrop of concern about the trajectory of the virus. Seven in ten (71%) Americans think the worst of the virus is still to come, two-thirds say infections are increasing in their state, and more than three in five (62%) express a high degree of concern that someone in their family will contract the virus.
John Bridgeland, former Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council under President George W. Bush and a Co-Founder of the COVID Collaborative, said the survey results demonstrate the opportunity for an all-out effort to support leaders who require masks in public. “Public health experts are clear that masks are essential to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Our survey shows that most Americans are willing to do their part and even those who are less likely to wear masks will do so if states or localities require it.”
The frequency of mask-wearing varies by circumstance, with 78% of Americans saying they wear a mask all of the time when they are shopping in a store. Seven in ten (71%) employed people say they wear a mask the large majority of the time or always when they are at work. Fewer wear masks the large majority of the time when they are walking down the street (48%), visiting someone else’s home (46%), exercising outside (40%), or hosting family and friends who are visiting their home (38%).
The survey indicates that mask mandates have an impact, as a 55% majority of Americans say they have worn a mask because it was required, even when they did not want to or think it was necessary; this includes 46% of Democrats, 53% of Independents, and 69% of Republicans. And those who wore a mask even when they did not want to reported having more positive than negative feelings about the experience.
The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) has projected that if 95% of people were to wear masks in public, from August 6 until December 1, 2020, nearly 5 million fewer people will contract the coronavirus and 66,000 fewer people will die. IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray stated: “Our modeling shows that Americans have a powerful, simple tool to combat this virus… if we all wear masks in public, millions will benefit.”
Certain demographics report more frequent mask use than others: 57% of Americans age 65 and over wear a mask 90% of the time or more, 53% of women and 63% of African Americans do the same, compared with only 42% of 18-to 34-year-olds, 46% of men, and 45% of whites. There is a notable gap in mask usage between Democrats (58%) and Republicans (40%). Half of Independents say they wear a mask 90% of the time or more.
Most Americans (86%) think that everyone wearing a mask in nearly all public settings would be very (58%) or somewhat (28%) effective in reducing the spread of the coronavirus. This includes large majorities across parties who think universal mask wearing would be effective: 95% of Democrats, 86% of Independents, and 74% of Republicans. While this finding shows that the public sees masking as an effective tactic against the coronavirus, it also shows that there is room to expand the understanding that masks are very effective in controlling the spread.
“The American people see that masks are effective at preventing the transmission of this virus;” said Michelle Williams, a Co-Founder and Chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the COVID Collaborative, and Dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Nearly universal mask coverage could help bring COVID-19 to its knees.”
When Americans choose not to wear masks, the top three reasons they cite are as follows: 1) masks are uncomfortable and make it more difficult to breathe; 2) masks are unnecessary because they maintain social distance; and 3) they have a right to choose not to wear a mask.
Americans say that the most motivating reasons to wear masks are to prevent spreading the virus in order to keep people safe and get back to normal more quickly. Among Americans who wear masks least often, one of their top motivations for wearing a mask is that masks are required by their state or local government. Other top motivations for low-usage mask wearers are to do their part to return to normal life, to prevent spreading the virus to vulnerable people, to show respect for others, and to do their part so businesses can fully reopen.
Medical professionals, personal connections, and government officials carry the most weight in encouraging people to wear masks. Americans who wear masks least often say that the encouragement of their doctor, their immediate family members, and their close friends would be the most important in getting them to wear a mask.
“Fighting COVID-19 is not a hopeless task or an endless road. Wearing a mask in public is an immediate, practical way to protect ourselves and all the people we care about,” said Ray Chambers, a Co-Founder of the COVID Collaborative, and former UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Malaria. “It is a matter of common sense, of common courtesy, of common decency.”
The survey was conducted online among 2,043 adults nationwide from July 28 and August 2, 2020 by Hart Research Associates on behalf of the COVID Collaborative.
COVID Collaborative is a national problem-solving platform for the COVID-19 crisis, bringing together leading experts in health, education, and the economy to support and empower state and local leaders to take unified action to turn the tide on the pandemic. COVID Collaborative curates the best data and practices on addressing the crisis, creates consensus metrics and action plans, and provides technical assistance to leaders on implementation. The Collaborative also supports mobilization efforts to shore up public support for the measures proposed by its contributing entities.
Hart Research Associates is one of the leading research firms in the United States and has been at the cutting edge of change in public opinion since its founding in 1971. Its clients include organizations from virtually every major sector of society, including candidates for public office and political parties, labor unions, the nonprofit and policy advocacy sector, business, health and medicine, technology, journalism, law, education, and the arts.
Media Contact: Robert Busweiler – [email protected] – 631.379.6454
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