Poll says a majority of Americans support mask & vaccine mandates

A majority of Americans support the vaccine mandates announced by President Joe Biden last week amid rising concerns about the chance of catching Covid.

According to the Monmouth University Poll, the public also supports instituting guidelines for masking and social distancing in their state as well as requiring people to show proof of vaccination for certain activities, such as boarding an airplane or going to the office. The poll finds majority support for nearly all these measures in both blue states and red states, although a significant number of people – mostly Republicans – remain opposed to getting the Covid vaccine.

Support for instituting, or reinstituting, state-based face mask and social distancing guidelines has increased in the past few months. Currently, 63% support these measures in their state, which is up from 52% in July.

This shift has come mostly in blue states, which were experiencing a lull in Covid transmission early in the summer. In Monmouth’s July poll, residents of states that voted for President Joe Biden (49%) were slightly less likely than those in states that voted for former President Donald Trump (54%) to support instituting these guidelines.

Now, 66% (+17 points) of blue state residents and 59% (+5 points) of red state residents support these measures. Majority support in both types of states comes even though only 32% of Republicans individually support these measures.

The poll also finds that 66% of Americans support requiring that face masks be worn by students, teachers, and staff in schools. This includes majorities of blue state (68%) and red state (63%) residents.

“The current poll shows majorities of residents in both red states and blue states support some type of Covid control measures, and that includes many of the mandates proposed by the president last week,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Most Americans support vaccine mandates for key groups mentioned in Biden’s announcement last week. This includes requiring Covid vaccines for health care workers (63%), federal employees (58%), and private contractors working for the federal government (55%).

The poll also finds majority support (60%) for requiring teachers and school staff to be vaccinated. Half (51%) of the American public supports a vaccine mandate for school students aged 12 and older.

The blue state/red state difference in support for any of these mandates is no larger than 5 points (e.g. 65% blue state and 60% red state for health care workers). Both types of states show majority support for all of these mandates except in the case of school children (53% in blue states, but just 48% in red states).

The poll also finds that a majority of Americans (59%) support requiring people to show proof of Covid vaccination in order to fly on a plane. Smaller majorities support the same requirement for going to an indoor arena for a sporting event or concert (55%) and going to an office or work setting around other people (53%).

There is slightly less support for requiring vaccine proof to go to a gym (50%), dine inside a restaurant (46%), or attend an event at an outdoor arena (46%). The blue state and red state support numbers for providing proof of vaccination differ by no more than 2 points in any of these cases.

Nearly all unvaccinated Americans oppose having to show Covid vaccine proof to enter any of these venues, and they are joined by a minority of those who have been vaccinated themselves. This ranges from 24% of vaccinated people who oppose having to show vaccine proof to fly on a plane to 39% who oppose having to show proof to go to an outdoor arena.

“The delta variant has dampened public confidence that we will get clear of this pandemic. That’s probably playing a role in broad support for mandates and other measures,” said Murray.

Just 11% of the public believes that the country will get the outbreak under control by the end of the year.

This marks a steep decline in optimism since March, when 61% felt that things would start returning to normal by year’s end.

At the other end of the spectrum, 22% of Americans feel that we will never get Covid under control and return to normal. Just 9% felt this way six months ago.

Just under half (45%) of American adults are very concerned about a family member becoming seriously ill from the coronavirus. This number has been on the rise since hitting a pandemic-era low of 23% in June.

The high point for this metric was 60% in January. The current result approaches the level measured last September (47% very concerned).  Among those who have received or are about to receive the Covid vaccine, 52% are very concerned, but just 21% of those who are waiting or are opposed to getting the vaccine feel the same level of concern about serious illness in their family.

Currently, 75% of those polled report receiving at least one dose of Covid vaccine and 2% say they will get it as soon as possible. A majority of American adults (51%) say they are very likely to get a Covid booster shot if it is made available and another 16% are somewhat likely.

The poll continues to find a sizable amount of anti-vax sentiment. This includes 6% of the public who say they are still waiting to see how it goes before getting an initial Covid shot, 15% who will not get the vaccine at all if they can avoid it, and 2% who give no answer on their vaccination intent.

In prior polls, there were clear demographic differences between the wait-and-see group and the opposed group. Now that both groups have shrunk in size, they are looking much more similar in terms of their opposition to most pandemic containment measures. Among the nearly 1 in 4 who show anti-vaccine attitudes, 72% describe themselves as Republicans or lean toward the Republican Party.

“In prior polls we made a distinction between those who are vaccine-hesitant and those who are opposed. These results suggest that distinction has largely vanished and about a quarter of the adult population remains unlikely to get the vaccine without some sort of mandate,” said Murray. He added, “I think it’s possible some of the anti-vax people we poll do not answer the intent question honestly because more and more Americans disapprove of their stance as the pandemic continues to rage.”

Just 23% of those polled say the American public is doing a good job dealing with the coronavirus outbreak while 65% say it is doing a bad job. This is the most negative rating Monmouth poll participants have given to their fellow Americans since the pandemic started in March 2020.  The prior low point was in August 2020 (26% good job) while the high point was in May 2020 (51% good job).

In other findings, a majority of Americans continue to give President Biden positive reviews for his handling of the pandemic, but that number has declined to 52%, from 55% in July and a high of 62% in April. Currently, 43% say Biden is doing a bad job on Covid.

“Biden’s handling of the pandemic was a strength during his first months in office. Public sentiment is not quite so rosy now, but most back his recent moves. We’ll see if the results bring about an improvement in his ratings,” said Murray.

Health agencies in the federal government generally receive positive ratings, although that sentiment is weaker than a couple of months ago. Currently, 52% say federal health agencies have done a good job, which is down from 57% in July. This number has ranged from 46% (August 2020) to 66% (April 2020). At the same time, most Americans (61%) say these agencies, such as the CDC, have been giving mixed messages about Covid risks, while just 36% say these agencies have been largely consistent in their messaging – a result which is nearly identical to two months ago.

The public continues to give positive marks for how their state governors have handled Covid –  56% say they have done a good job, which is comparable to polls in July (54%) and June (58%). More than half of residents in states that Biden won (58%) as well as states that Trump won (53%) say their governor has done a good job dealing with the pandemic.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from September 9 to 13, 2021 with 802 adults in the United States.  The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

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