A young supporter wears a Trump 2020 mask at Trump's Tulsa rally.

Face Masks Might Finally Be Becoming Less of a Pointlessly Partisan Issue

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It looks like face masks might finally be shedding some of their political stigma.

According to a recent HuffPost/YouGov poll, 77% of Americans support wearing face coverings in public. While there is still some division among party lines, the difference is narrowing, with 92% of Democrats supporting mask-wearing and 68% of Republicans agreeing.

According to a similar poll from Axios/Ipsos, this indicates a huge shift in just a few weeks. At the end of June, 35% of Republicans said they wore a mask “at all times” when leaving the house. Two weeks later, that number had jumped to 45%. (For Democrats, there was a smaller increase, from 71% to 78% and Independents moved from 52% to 58%.)

Obviously, those numbers should be higher but this is good news. Despite Donald Trump’s months of constant politicization of masks, more and more Republican politicians and conservative media figures have been encouraging people to wear them. With COVID-19 cases continuing to surge across the country, there’s also an increased chance that people have had their minds changed after being personally affected by the virus. Whatever the reason, more masks is a good thing.

However, there’s also a certain amount of revisionism going on here. That HuffPost poll also asked participants what they believed people from the opposite party thought about masks. Only 31% of Democrats think that most or all Republicans support wearing face coverings around others, which the outlet used as evidence that Democrats “underestimate” Republicans and that they “are prone to overstate the level of GOP opposition to masks.”

Is it really “overstating” opposition if Democrats are answering based on the information they’ve been encountering in the world around them for the last six months? There is a partisan divide in opinions around masks, from regular people on up to (more importantly) the politicians legislating masks on city and state levels. Just because that is (thankfully) changing, it seems unfair to accuse Democrats of having exaggerated the reality of the situation, especially not when Republican leadership is disproportionately responsible for so many unnecessary deaths and illnesses.

Similarly, participants were also asked what Donald Trump thought of face masks and an astounding 57% of Republicans said he supported wearing them (compared with 20% of Democrats). Just because Trump did finally make the statement that he thought people should wear masks–a statement he made during the interview period for this survey–that doesn’t mean those 80% of Democrats were wrong for not ignoring months of disparaging comments Trump made about masks and those who wear them.

Let’s welcome change and encourage absolutely everyone to wear a mask and do whatever they can to protect themselves and others, but let’s also not pretend like people were overreacting just because they were paying attention.

(via HuffPost, Forbes, image: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.