New guidance from U.S. health officials urging even fully vaccinated Americans to mask up indoors in areas where coronavirus transmission is high still won’t persuade nearly 25% of American adults to regularly wear a mask, new polling suggests, and unvaccinated Americans are particularly unlikely to wear a face covering despite the delta variant’s rapid spread.
A Morning Consult poll conducted July 31 to Aug. 2 among 2,200 U.S. adults found 24% of respondents largely don’t plan to wear masks in public indoor settings despite new guidance calling for that from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with 11% saying they plan to rarely wear masks and 13% saying they’ll never wear masks.
A slim majority of adults said they plan to wear masks in light of the guidance, with 38% saying they will always wear a mask indoors and 20% saying they’ll mask up most of the time, while 18% say they’ll wear a mask “sometimes.”
Respondents who aren’t fully vaccinated were far less likely to say they plan to wear a mask in line with the CDC guidance: 15% said they’d rarely wear a mask and 22% said they’d never wear one, as compared with 9% and 8% of fully vaccinated respondents, respectively.
A new Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) poll similarly found that while news of the Delta variant has made 54% of the 1,517 U.S. adults polled more likely to wear a face mask in public, that includes only 37% of unvaccinated respondents versus 62% of vaccinated ones.
The KFF poll, conducted July 15-27 before the new CDC guidance was announced, found unvaccinated adults were approximately 10% less likely to wear masks in most places than vaccinated ones: 53% of vaccinated respondents said they always or mostly wear masks in grocery stores versus 44% of unvaccinated, for instance, and 47% of the vaccinated wear masks on public transportation versus 37% of the unvaccinated.
Both polls also found Republicans were significantly less likely to wear masks than Democrats, with the Morning Consult poll finding only 10% of Democrats plan to rarely or never wear masks versus 42% of Republicans.
The Morning Consult poll found 65% of overall respondents and 80% of vaccinated ones largely blame the unvaccinated for the new surge of Covid-19 cases linked to the delta variant. Only 36% of unvaccinated respondents blamed people who haven’t gotten the shot, however—in line with other recent polling—and were more likely to blame the federal government (50%), Democratic political leaders (47%), state governments (46%) and local governments (43%).
The CDC advised in May that it didn’t believe fully vaccinated Americans needed to wear masks indoors, but the agency reversed course last week in light of new evidence that those who are inoculated can transmit the delta variant if infected. The new guidance and surge of Covid-19 cases linked to the variant has sparked a wave of new mask mandates and recommendations from businesses, states and localities throughout the country, including for the fully vaccinated. The Morning Consult and KFF polls are in line with other polling showing unvaccinated Americans are less likely to follow public health protocols like social distancing and mask wearing, though with Covid-19 vaccines being highly effective at preventing severe illness and death, public health officials have warned the unvaccinated are at the highest risk of the Delta variant’s surge.
What To Watch For
The divide over mask wearing is already leading to clashes across the country that are likely to continue, particularly as a number of states have banned localities and school districts from putting new mask mandates in place. Cities in Florida and Texas have already imposed mask orders despite statewide prohibitions on doing so, and the state of Missouri has sued St. Louis after the city enacted a mask mandate. Parents in Arkansas have also sued the state in an effort to allow school districts to implement mask mandates, and a school district in Phoenix mandated masks for their 32,000 students despite Arizona explicitly banning districts from requiring them.
KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor – July 2021 (Kaiser Family Foundation)