Health Team

Poll: Mask-wearing divides remain even as coronavirus cases spike

Posted July 28, 2020 4:31 a.m. EDT

— Democrats, non-whites and elderly Americans are all significantly more likely to say they wear a protective mask every time they leave the house, new polling data shows, as measures to protect the spread of coronavirus continue to be polarized and case-counts in the U.S. reach new heights.

The new NBC News|SurveyMonkey Weekly Tracking Poll found that 97 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaners say they wear a mask at least most of the time when they leave their homes and might be in contact with others (86 percent say they wear a mask “every time” while 11 percent say they do so “most of the time”).

Seventy percent of Republicans and those who lean Republican say the same (48 percent say “every time” and 22 percent say “most of the time).

For independents, 71 percent say they wear a mask “every time” they leave home and might be in contact with others, and another 18 percent say they wear a mask “most of the time.”

Overall, a strong majority of adults say they regularly wear masks. Sixty-eight percent of adults say they wear a mask “every time” they leave home and may be in contact with others, 16 percent say they do so “most of the time,” 10 percent say they wear a mask “some of the time” and just 5 percent say “never.”

There’s also a clear divide along racial lines. Eighty percent of non-white Americans say they wear a mask “every time” they’re in a public space with others, including 82 percent of Blacks, 82 percent of Asians and 81 percent of Hispanics. That’s compared with 61 percent of whites who say the same.

And the difference extends to generational divides. Seventy-five percent of those over the age of 65 said they wear a mask every time they leave their home — in every other age subgroup, people are between 64 and 69 percent likely to say the same. Those between the ages of 35 and 54 are least likely to wear a mask every time they leave home.

The new data show the political divide over the issue still exists as the White House seeks to shift its messaging on masks as cases spike across the U.S. Cases in the country have topped 4.2 million and over 147,000 Americans have died of the virus.

The Centers for Disease and Prevention has recommended since April that people wear masks when they are unable to maintain social distancing. But President Trump balked at wearing a mask for months before finally urging Americans to adopt the practice — and donning a mask himself — in recent days.

In May, Trump even mocked presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden for wearing a mask outside of his home. And as recently as two weeks ago, he said he disagreed with CDC Director Robert Redfield with how effective mask-wearing is in curbing the virus because masks “cause problems too.”

However, Trump struck a decidedly different tone last week when he tweeted that wearing a mask was “patriotic” and said during a press conference, “we're asking everybody that when you are not able to socially distance, wear a mask.”

The new poll shows that throughout the pandemic, adults have mainly only left their homes for necessary activities like grocery shopping — numbers that largely haven’t budged since the poll began earlier this month.

A majority, 54 percent, say they’ve left the house in the past day to go grocery shopping, with 43 percent doing so for a walk/to get some fresh air, or to go to work.

But just 21 percent said they left the house to exercise and 16 percent say they left the house to eat at a restaurant or bar, numbers that come as many states struggle as to whether to keep indoor spaces open amid concerns of the virus’ airborne spread.

These data come from a set of SurveyMonkey online polls conducted July 20-26, 2020 among a national sample of 46,450 adults in the U.S.

Respondents were selected from the more than 2 million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. The modeled error estimate for this survey is plus or minus 1.0 percentage points. Data have been weighted for age, race, sex, education, and geography using the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to reflect the demographic composition of the United States age 18 and over.

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