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A majority of Americans would back a Biden mask mandate

Most people think masks should be worn in public places and around people outside their household.

US President-elect Joe Biden removes his face mask before announcing the members of his health team in December.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

When President-elect Joe Biden takes office, one of the actions he’s committed to implementing in his first 100 days is a federal mask mandate, which would require people to wear face masks in federal buildings and on interstate transportation to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. According to a new poll from Vox and Data for Progress, most Americans are on board with that plan, with 69 percent of likely voters saying they support this policy.

This backing mirrors support for mask usage overall, with 72 percent of people polled agreeing that masks should be required in all public places and 66 percent saying they should be required to be worn around anyone outside of the household. Both statements garnered support from the majority of people in both parties, though a smaller proportion of Republicans agreed with them.

Biden’s mask mandate would apply to federal public locations such as post offices, courthouses, and trains, while states would be able to impose their own rules elsewhere. The mandate follows guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which encourages people to wear face masks in order to reduce the spread of droplets that can transmit the coronavirus when people speak, cough, and sneeze.

As part of his coronavirus plan, Biden has also said he’s focused on making sure most schools have the resources needed to reopen safely within his first 100 days. And currently, there is a slight split on when people think schools should reopen: 27 percent of poll respondents think they should be open now; 35 percent think they should open when they have the funding needed to implement protections and do it safely; and 32 percent think they should open when the vaccine is widely distributed.

Other coronavirus policies that received solid support in the poll include free access to the vaccine (85 percent), free coronavirus testing (78 percent), access to self-administered coronavirus testing at home (65 percent), increased mobile testing options and drive-through sites (81 percent), and the implementation of a one-month lockdown to slow the spread of coronavirus (52 percent).

Timing around the adoption of a vaccine was another area that was somewhat mixed: 38 percent of people said they’d take it as soon as they could; 16 percent said they’d do it after a few people they knew already had; 27 percent said they’d take it after a lot of people had; and 19 percent said they’d never take it. A much higher proportion of Republicans (31 percent) and independents (19 percent) said they would never take it, compared to Democrats (8 percent).

The poll was conducted from December 19 to 21 with 1,104 likely voters, and has a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points. Its findings indicate broad openness to the policies Biden has laid out to combat the pandemic, though there’s a range of opinions about the specific timing around them.