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Most Americans want masks to be mandatory in stores

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While retail and restaurant workers are facing violence and harassment at the hands of anti-mask customers, Americans overwhelmingly support policies requiring people to wear facial coverings in public. 

A new Harris Poll survey found that 76% of Americans believe businesses should “exact and enforce” their own policies requiring all customers and employees to wear masks, compared to 15% who disagreed. (10% of respondents said they were not sure.) 

A small but growing number of major brands have begun to roll out mandatory mask policies. On Wednesday, Starbucks will become the first national restaurant chain to require all customers to wear masks while inside locations. Best Buy will also begin requiring customers to wear masks the same day, while Costco and Apple began requiring customers to wear masks in May. 

77% of Americans support mandatory facial coverings more generally, according to the survey. The Harris Poll surveyed 1,974 America adults from July 10 to 12 on their thoughts on businesses and masks. 

There were no major differences in race, age, and gender among Americans who favored a mandatory face mask policy and those who did not. A smaller percentage of Republicans and people living in rural areas supported mandatory facial coverings, but the majority of both groups were still in support of the policies, at 64% and 66% respectively. 

Mask enforcement has become a new responsibility for of retail workers 

Starbucks



Starbucks


78% of respondents said they believed retail workers should be responsible for enforcing mask policies — a new responsibility that is making some employees’ lives more difficult. 

Videos of customers yelling at employees and refusing to wear masks in stores including Costco and Target have gone viral in recent weeks. A 19-year-old McDonald’s worker was assaulted in Oakland, California, after asking a customer to wear a mask. Some restaurants have ultimately re-closed dining rooms after employees were harassed by anti-mask customers. 

The Harris Poll survey confirms that most customers are happy to comply with businesses’ and governments’ mask requirements. A whopping 87% of respondents said they would follow a retail worker’s request to wear a mask.

“As cases rise, mask-wearing is now less political and more sensible,” The Harris Poll CEO John Gerzema said in an email to Business Insider. 

Still, the aggressive anti-mask minority is enough to cause major problems for workers. Gerzema pointed to the strong support for masks as evidence that workers are being unfairly expected to enforce local policies when the federal government and national chains have not taken a stand. 

“In this strong support for policies I would infer that many people feel it’s unfair that mask policing is left to employees,” Gerzema said. “Business can’t essentially leave this to ‘the governors’.”

Americans are split on if mask mandates should be the responsibility of the federal government or the private sector, according to The Harris Poll. 59% of respondents said it is the responsibility of the government, while 41% of respondents said it was the responsibility of the private sector. 

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