It has been more than three months since the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reversed course and recommended that Americans wear face masks in public to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Gallup has been measuring U.S. adults' use of face masks since early April and has found nearly nine in 10 say they have used one in the past week. Yet, new data on how often masks are being used reveals that less than half of Americans are heeding health officials' guidance and always covering their nose and mouth when in public, especially when social distancing is difficult to maintain.
Forty-four percent of U.S. adults say they "always" wear a mask when outside their homes, and 28% say they do so "very often." At the same time, three in 10 report doing so less often, including 11% "sometimes," 4% "rarely" and 14% "never."
These latest findings are from the probability-based online Gallup Panel survey conducted June 29-July 5, as COVID-19 cases were surging in several states, including Florida, Texas, Arizona and California. With cases nationwide continuing to spike, many public health officials and politicians are imploring Americans to wear masks. Notably, a number of states recently began to mandate the use of masks when in public. Yet, it may fall on deaf ears for some Americans who are resistant to using them.
While majorities of women (54%), Democrats (61%), Northeasterners (54%), and those with annual household incomes under $36,000 (51%) say they always use masks outside their homes, their counterparts do so less often. Still, with just one exception, majorities in each of these subgroups -- as well as education and age groups -- say they wear a mask in public at least very often.
The one exception is Republicans, among whom a majority say they wear masks infrequently -- either sometimes (18%), rarely (9%) or never (27%). Although President Donald Trump has been reluctant to wear one in public, other Republican leaders have come out in support of using them.
Although a broad majority of Americans are wearing masks in public at least very often, fewer are doing so all the time as recommended by the CDC and other health officials. Since April, a growing minority of U.S. adults are eschewing mask usage.
The issue has been politically charged from the start when Trump announced that he would not wear a mask at the same press briefing when the recommendation was made. Yet, as infection rates are rising sharply and Trump has now worn a mask in public, more Americans may follow suit.