Last month, Redfield & Wilton Strategies conducted a poll on mask usage as part of a long series tracking six key swing states ahead of November’s Presidential Election: Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
A majority in all of these swing states (53-60%), except for Wisconsin, say they always wear a mask when they leave home, and roughly three quarters say they always or most of the time wear a mask (75-78%). In Wisconsin, a plurality of 38% say they always wear a mask while almost a fifth say they rarely or never wear a mask (18%).
Wisconsin was added to the ‘red zone’ as part of the coronavirus task force’s report on 26th July, indicating that there is still a rise in cases, yet mask usage is lower than the other states polled. On the other hand, while Arizona is still in the ‘red zone’, the report credited a recent fall in cases in the state to “aggressive mitigation effort of mask wearing, social distancing and closing bars” and it has the highest rates of mask usage according to our research. It is of course important to note that these results are about claimed mask usage rather than actual compliance.
On public transport, the majority in all swing states polled said that mask wearing was not applicable to them, suggesting that few people are using public transport. The highest uptake of mask wearing on public transport is in Florida, where 30% say they always or most of the time wear a mask while a fifth (18%) say they rarely or never do. In all of the other states polled, the difference between those that say they always or most of the time wear a mask and those that say they rarely or never wear a mask is less than 10%.
Given the enclosed nature of public transport, many countries European countries mandated masks on public transport as early as April. The UK Government made masks mandatory on public transport more than a month before requiring them elsewhere. Therefore, it is surprising that wearing on public transport is fairly low in these swing states.
The highest rates of mask wearing are in supermarkets, where a majority in every state (54-74%) say they always wear a mask when shopping. Mask wearing is lowest in Wisconsin, where 15% say they rarely or never wear a mask when in a supermarket, but two-thirds (66%) say they always or most of the time wear a mask.
A plurality in all of the states polled (34-42%), except for Wisconsin, say they always or most of the time wear a mask when enter a home they do not live in while roughly a quarter (24-28%) say they rarely or never wear a mask. Again, mask usage in Wisconsin is the lowest with just over a third (36%) saying they rarely or never wear a mask when entering another home.
Pluralities in all of the states except for Wisconsin (26-31%) say they always wear a mask when meeting with a friend outside while 40% in Wisconsin say they rarely or never do. Several European countries initially imposed mask mandates in public outdoor settings but most of these restrictions were eased at the end of May as it has been accepted that the virus does not spread as viciously outside. Therefore, the fact that a strong plurality in all swing states other than Wisconsin (40-47%) say they always or most of the time wear a mask when they meet a friend outside is quite high.
However, a plurality in every state except for Florida say they rarely or never wear a mask when walking in the park (32-47%). Roughly a quarter in Florida (27%) say they always wear a mask when walking in the park whilst almost a third (29%) in Wisconsin say they never wear a mask. While parks are public places, they often provide ample room to socially distance and the virus does not spread as much outside.
Overall, self-reported mask usage in these swing states is high with a few notable exceptions. As Wisconsin has just been added to the federal ‘red zone’, the lower rates of mask wearing in the state are quite concerning. While Arizona may be designated as a ‘red zone’ state by the report, it has been praised for its coronavirus crackdown and levelling off of case numbers, and our research shows that mask compliance is higher in the state. But across these swing states, the low rates of mask wearing on public transport should be alarming to all when so many other countries have prioritised mask mandates on public transport in attempts to get people back to work.