News & Opinion | June 4, 2020 7:30 am

Certain Americans Are More Committed to Wearing Face Masks Than Others

According to results from a recent Gallup poll

Certain Americans Are More Committed to Wearing Face Masks Than Others
(Photo by Liu Guanguan/China News Service via Getty Images)

According to a Gallup poll conducted in mid-April, an American’s willingness to wear a face mask in public to help curb the coronavirus outbreak is directly related to demographic factors including gender, political affiliation and education level. The poll was based on a random sample of 2,451 adults in the United States, had a margin of error of three percentage points, and found that women, Democrats, people in densely populated areas, and college graduates were all more likely than their counterparts — men, Republicans, rural-dwellers and those without a college degree — to report consistent face mask use.

Political commentators, medical professionals and psychologists all have theories on the disparities present in the poll. Geography is at the forefront; the dozen states enforcing use in public businesses are the hardest-hit sections of America, and contain its densest cities and suburbs. The majority of these states also voted blue in the last election. But more pernicious sentiments play a massive role, too, like toxic masculinity and ignorance — a preprinted study published online in May found that more men than women imagine themselves invincible to the coronavirus. Choosing to not wear a mask, then, has been associated with a bizarre brand of “tough guy” resistance, which has played out in grocery stores across the country and been validated by President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

Mask-wearing is also a foil for nation-wide perceptions of the severity of the coronavirus. Despite the fact that over 100,000 Americans have died — more than the amount of deaths from the Vietnam War, the Korean War, the War on Terror, September 11th and the Revolutionary War combined — many who live in counties skipped over by COVID-19 (as of now, at least) have remained unsympathetic, or even skeptical, to the national tragedy, and more concentrated on opening up businesses.

It should be noted, however, that Gallup’s data was collected well over a month ago, and attitudes and actions could have changed in the weeks proceeding, especially as states began to open up. Even New York City is entering Phase 1 of reopening next week (although face mask measures haven’t changed). Another massive wrench in this data — many protestors marching for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor in in cities across America have not been wearing face masks, and some epidemiological professors have called the protests “breeding grounds.” Many are expecting an increase in positive tests over the next two weeks.

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