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Most Americans support wearing masks over COVID-19 as Trump politicizes it

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  • President Donald Trump and many of his allies have politicized the issue of wearing masks or face-coverings, a practice that helps prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • In over half a dozen recent national surveys, however, overwhelmingly majorities of Americans, Republicans, and those who support Trump, say they always or regularly wear masks in public. 
  • Trump has generally refused to wear a mask in public, going against the advice of his own administration.
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, on Wednesday strongly urged Americans to wear masks as a public health measure and as a sign of respect. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump and many of his allies have politicized the issue of wearing masks or face-coverings, a practice that helps prevent the spread of COVID-19, but polling has repeatedly shown that most Americans — including Republicans and Trump’s supporters — are in favor of the practice.  

  • An exhaustive nationwide survey of over 22,000 Americans in all 50 states conducted from April 17-26 by a team of researchers from Harvard, Northeastern, and Rutgers found that 75% of Americans and 70% of Republicans said they somewhat closely or very closely follow government guidelines to wear masks outside their homes. 
  • In a national survey of over 2,220 Americans conducted April 14-21 by political scientists Gabriel Sanchez and Edward Vargas with the online polling firm Lucid, 73% of Democrats and 59% of Republicans said they had worn a mask or face-covering in public to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 
  • A Fox News national poll of 1,200 registered voters conducted from May 17-20 found that 72% of all Americans, 60% of Republicans, and 61% of those who voted for Trump in 2016 said they wear masks in public all or most of the time. 
  • A Democracy Fund and UCLA Nationscape survey of 4,576 registered voters conducted May 7-14 found that 84% of all Americans and 81% of Republicans say they have worn a mask in public in response to the coronavirus crisis. 
  • A Politico/Morning Consult national tracking poll of 1,986 registered voters conducted May 22-26 found that 81% of all Americans and 71% of those who say they strongly approve of Trump’s job performance said they are very or somewhat likely to wear a mask in public spaces. 
  • In a CBS News and YouGov poll of 2,000 Americans conducted May 11-13, 69% of Americans said they wear a mask or face covering all or most of the time they leave their homes.
  • A Huffington Post/YouGov poll conducted May 14-16 found that 69% of Americans and 66% of Republicans say they wear a mask in public places around other people, like in grocery stores, all or most of the time. 
    • The same poll also found that 83% of Americans and 76% of Republicans say they believe wearing a mask in public is not a sign of weakness.
    • Sixty-nine percent of Americans and 58% of Republicans said they believe wearing a mask is a sign of respectfulness. 

Trump and some of his allies have implied that wearing a mask in a sign of weakness

Though members of the US public say they regularly cover their faces, the rhetoric emanating from the president and some of his allies on this topic makes the issue seem far more divided along political lines than it is in reality. 

Trump has generally refused to wear a mask in public, going against the advice of his own administration. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges the US public to cover their mouth and nose “with a cloth face cover when around others.”

“Everyone should wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public, for example to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities,” the CDC’s website states.

But Trump, who is extremely image-conscious, seemingly views mask-wearing as a sign of weakness.

Earlier this month, the Associated Press reported that Trump is worried that wearing a mask in public would hurt his re-election chances. And in a May 21 visit to a Ford Motors plant in Michigan, Trumponly wore a mask in a private tour of the factory with a few of the company’s executives, but took it off when being photographed and taking questions from the press. 

In recent days, Trump has mocked his 2020 opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, for wearing a mask in public on Memorial Day. On Tuesday, Trump mocked Reuters White House correspondent Jeff Mason for wearing a mask during a press conference in the Rose Garden, accusing the reporter of attempting to be “politically correct” by covering his face. 

 

And Trump on Thursday shared a tweet from the right-wing publication The Federalist which suggested masks are not about public health but “social control” and that they represent “silence, slavery, and social death.” 

Meanwhile, Fox News’ Laura Ingraham, who often defends the Trump administration on her show, has repeatedly sought to sow doubt about the efficacy of masks, painting the call for people to cover their faces as a media plot designed to spread fear. 

Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University and staunch Trump supporter, on Wednesday said he’ll only wear a mask if it features an image of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam in blackface.

Not all of Trump’s allies are pushing against mask-wearing, however, as Fox News’ Sean Hannity recently chastised people in Missouri for partying without social distancing or masks over Memorial Day weekend. 

Responding to footage of the partygoers in the Midwestern state that was widely shared on social media, Hannity said, “There’s no mask-wearing here that I see … I see no social distancing. But if they get the virus and they’re in contact with older, more vulnerable Americans, that could be a disaster for others … If you can’t social distance, please wear the mask for your mom, dad, grandma, grandpa. My humble advice.”

FILE - In this photo taken on April 20, 2020, a woman wearing protective face mask looks at her phone past a closed restaurant during a nationwide confinement to counter the COVID-19, in Paris. French lawmakers are set to vote on whether allowing or not France's contact-tracing app designed to contain the spread of the coronavirus that is raising privacy concerns. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, File)

FILE – In this photo taken on April 20, 2020, a woman wearing protective face mask looks at her phone past a closed restaurant during a nationwide confinement to counter the COVID-19, in Paris. French lawmakers are set to vote on whether allowing or not France’s contact-tracing app designed to contain the spread of the coronavirus that is raising privacy concerns. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, File)

Associated Press


Public health experts have emphasized the importance of wearing masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, which is easily transmitted by asymptomatic carriers who aren’t aware they have the disease. The CDC estimates that as many as 35% of those infected show no symptoms. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, on Wednesday strongly urged Americans to wear masks for public health purposes and as a sign of respect. 

“I want to protect myself and protect others, and also because I want to make it be a symbol for people to see that that’s the kind of thing you should be doing,” Fauci said during a CNN interview. 

Though experts are still debating how effective masks are in mitigating the spread of the virus, research has shown that it can drastically reduce infections.

Researchers in Hong Kong, for example, recently conducted experiments that found that the transmission rate of coronavirus via respiratory droplets or airborne particles dropped by roughly 75% when masks were used. 

“The findings implied to the world and the public is that the effectiveness of mask-wearing against the coronavirus pandemic is huge,” Dr. Yuen Kwok-yung, a top microbiologist at Hong Kong University, said regarding the study’s findings. 

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