STAT-Harris Poll: Most Americans would support Biden issuing a mask mandate

By ED SILVERMAN | STAT News | Dec 21, 2020

Most Americans believe the Biden administration should mandate several steps — such as requiring people to wear masks in public and banning gatherings of 10 or more people — to thwart the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the latest survey from STAT and The Harris Poll.

The poll found that 75% of the public supports the idea of mandating a mask and a similar number believe people should be required to get tested if they feel sick. At the same time, two-thirds of Americans think President-elect Biden should ban gatherings involving more than 10 people. Nearly as many — just under 60% — said the administration should temporarily close nonessential businesses such as restaurants and gyms, and mandate vaccination.

However, while Democrats were overwhelmingly in favor of each of those mandates, a majority of Republicans registered their support only for mandatory mask wearing and testing, according to the survey, which queried 2,002 people online between Dec. 11 and Dec. 13.

And in a rebuke of President Trump, who withdrew from the World Health Organization over its response to the pandemic, 64% of Americans said they agree with Biden’s decision to reengage with — and fund — the global health agency. That show of support, too, was largely divided along party lines. The poll found that 86% of Democrats approved of the move, while 62% of Republicans said they disagreed.

At the same time, nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said they agreed with Biden’s decision to ask Anthony Fauci to serve as chief medical adviser in his administration. The idea was also favored by an overwhelming majority of Democrats — 88% said they supported the idea, compared to only 50% of Republicans who agreed.

The results arrive amid ongoing turmoil over the response by the Trump administration to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has already killed 312,000 people in the U.S. Since March, Trump has downplayed the seriousness of the coronavirus and often contradicted many of his own public health experts, sometimes appearing to do so for political expediency.

Along the way, Trump prompted polarizing debate by refusing to wear a mask and arguing that schools and businesses should remain open or reopen as soon as possible after lockdowns. He also attempted to bully the Food and Drug Administration into authorizing the use of various medicines and vaccines, raising concerns that his reelection aspirations were overshadowing science.

After months of divisiveness and mixed messages, there is growing anticipation over the steps the Biden administration will take to reverse the course of the pandemic. At the same time, though, the expectations may not translate into changed behavior. For example, only 49% of Americans said they are now more likely to wear a mask, while 40% reported they will not do anything differently.

The poll also revealed some interesting differences concerning key appointments Biden plans to make, such as installing Harvard Medical School professor Rochelle Walensky to head the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — an agency largely sidelined during the Trump administration — and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to run the Department of Health and Human Services.

By and large, most Americans said these appointments would not change behaviors associated with combating Covid-19, such as wearing a mask or social distancing. However, the poll noted differences among political groups. Among Republicans, 27% of said these new appointments would prompt them to practice social distancing, compared to 54% of Democrats.

Read the full story at STAT News.