Slim Majority in US Supports Return to Masks, Social Distancing: Poll

Carolyn Crist

August 03, 2021

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

A slight majority of Americans support a return to wearing masks and social distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, according to a new poll released by Monmouth University on Monday.

The poll, which was taken before the CDC released new indoor mask guidelines last week, found that 52% of Americans support reinstituting mask and distancing protocols in their state. About 46% were opposed.

The numbers split along political party lines, with 85% of Democrats in support of bringing back masks and social distancing and 73% of Republicans in opposition to the idea. Independents were divided, with 42% in support and 55% against it.

The poll, which was taken between July 21-26, included 804 adults across the U.S.

About 57% of those polled said federal health agencies such as the CDC are handling the pandemic well, while 33% said the agencies were doing poorly. At the same time, 59% said the agencies were giving mixed messages about COVID-19 risks.

"I think Americans acknowledge that the CDC and other health agencies have to deal with a lot of uncertainty," Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said in a statement.

"Still, it is tough for the average person to understand the flip from masks being optional to being necessary again," he said. "The messaging has not been clear."

Public concern about another pandemic surge has increased during the past month. About 57% of people polled in June said they thought another wave would happen if not enough people were vaccinated, which has increased to 65%. The number of people who are "very concerned" increased from 26% to 44%.

In addition, about 53% of those polled said they are at least "somewhat" concerned about a family member becoming seriously ill from the coronavirus. That marks an increase from 42% in June, which was an all-time low during the pandemic. Another 30% said they are "very concerned" about a serious illness in their family, which is up from 23% in June.

About 48% of Americans said they were somewhat concerned about catching one of the new coronavirus variants. Those who had received at least one vaccine dose (57% of people polled) were far more likely to be worried about contracting COVID-19 from a contagious variant than the 17% of people who remain strongly opposed to getting vaccinated.

"Many, if not most, anti-vaxxers believe Covid is a hoax or they are unlikely to get infected," Murray said. "Which means there may be very little that can be done at this point to change their minds."


Monmouth University: "National: Federal Health Agencies Get Good Marks, But Give Mixed Messages on COVID, released August 2, 2021."