A bipartisan majority of registered voters strongly support state mandates that would fine or jail individuals if they fail to wear a mask in public, a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll finds.
The broad approval for such mandates comes as statewide mask orders aimed at stopping the spread of coronavirus are under effect in more than half of U.S. states. Increasingly, Republican governors in states like Alabama and Arkansas have issued mask mandates, while top health officials are pleading with the public to cover their faces.
The poll found 53 percent of registered voters polled favor statewide mask mandates that are punishable by fine or jail time. In addition to the 86 percent of Democrats polled who strongly or somewhat support the mandates, both Republican and independent respondents expressed majority support for requiring face masks to be worn in public.
Sixty-eight percent of independents polled and 58 percent of Republicans polled supported the mask mandates, according to the survey.
“With public health officials putting renewed emphasis on mask-wearing to combat the coronavirus, nearly three-quarters of voters — including over half of Republicans — would support their state instituting a mandatory mask order for public spaces, even if not wearing a mask could result in a fine or jail time,” said Kyle Dropp, co-founder and chief research officer at Morning Consult.
Researchers have found that universal mask-wearing can prevent the spread of coronavirus by reducing the risk of an infected person spreading the disease by talking or coughing. Top Trump administration health officials like Centers for Disease Control Director Robert Redfield and Surgeon General Jerome Adams have urged the American public in recent weeks to wear masks, identifying the practice as the nation’s top weapon to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.
In March, however, top U.S. health officials were urging Americans not to wear masks, because of fears that it would result in shortages for health care workers and lead to more infections due to increased face touching.
While some governors have instituted mask orders, some Republican officials, like Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, have resisted them. Kemp issued an executive order last week that voided local mask mandates in the state.
The Republican attorney general of Louisiana also released an official statement last week arguing that Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ statewide mask mandate was unconstitutional.
President Donald Trump opposes a nationwide mask mandate and the White House has consistently said that masks are recommended, but not required. On Monday, Trump tweeted a picture of himself wearing a mask for the first time after months of avoiding being seen with a facial covering in public. The president was seen later Monday evening, socializing without a mask on at his downtown Washington hotel.
Experts have partially attributed the severity of the United States’ coronavirus outbreak to the absence of a mask-wearing culture. In East Asian societies where mask use is widespread, the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked less havoc.
The POLITICO/Morning Consult poll was conducted online from July 17-19, reaching 1,991 registered voters nationwide. The poll’s margin of error is plus-or-minus 2 percentage points.