Across nation, masks are the latest political, cultural divide

For Trump’s supporters, declining to wear a mask is a visible way to demonstrate “that ‘I’m a Republican,’ or ‘I want businesses to start up again,’ or ‘I support the president,’ ” said Robert Kahn, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis who has studied Americans’ attitudes toward masks. “Masks will quickly become the new normal in blue states, but if social distancing continues through 2022, the mentality among Republicans could well change, too: If I can go to work and the cost of marginal improvement in my life is wearing a mask, maybe Americans of both parties do accommodate ourselves to it.”

But the political divisions contributing to the split over mask-wearing have proved to be persistent so far, and those who oppose covering their mouth and nose have comfortably fit that position into their existing world view.

“Trump supporters, many of whom may live in less-populated red states, may currently know fewer people with covid, and may therefore minimize the threat,” said Robert Klitzman, a psychiatrist at Columbia University who specializes in bioethics. “They don’t want to wear masks – they may feel they are being imposed and are ‘un-American,’ perhaps something only people in the Far East do. The fact that wearing masks suggests that the virus is a real threat to them – despite what Trump has said – may further tip the balance against masks.”

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