US views on mask mandates are shifting

Support for compulsory face coverings declines as Americans become less fearful of catching Covid-19, poll shows

As their fears of catching Covid-19 fade, Americans are becoming less inclined to think that their fellow citizens should be forced to wear masks in public places, a new poll has revealed.

About 50% of Americans favor requiring face coverings in public, down from 55% last August, according to a poll conducted by the Associated Press and the University of Chicago’s NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The latest result marks a strong shift from the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, when about 75% of respondents agreed with compulsory mask-wearing.

However, even in the February AP/NORC survey, 77% of Democrats still favored mask mandates, and 16% were neutral. Just 7% said they opposed forcing people to wear face coverings, compared with 53% of Republicans.

Most US states have ended their mask mandates. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last Friday said Covid-19 risks are high enough in only about 28% of the country to make face coverings necessary.

The shift in attitudes about mask rules appears to correlate with a similar slide in virus fears. Just 24% of Americans are now “extremely” or “very” worried about themselves or a family member being infected with Covid-19, down from 36% when the Omicron variant was spreading rapidly in December and January, according to the poll, which was released on Monday.

Covid-19 anxiety is at the lowest level in eight months. Just 13% of unvaccinated Americans have strong concerns about contracting the virus, while 28% of people who’ve been inoculated said they are extremely or very worried.

Concerns over infectious diseases in general also have waned. The poll showed that 48% of Americans are extremely or very worried about disease outbreaks threatening the US, down from 65% last August. Disease concerns are near the same level seen just before the Covid-19 pandemic.

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