Public opinion within the GOP has shifted in favor of masks. In a Navigator survey taken in late May, Republican voters said they were “pro-mask,” not “anti-mask,” by a margin of 24 percentage points. By July, that margin had grown to 38 points. In the May survey, 24 percent of Republicans said they generally didn’t wear masks; by July, that number was down to 13 percent. The July Navigator survey also asked voters to choose between two statements: that “there is too much shaming of people for not wearing masks” or that “people who don’t wear masks in public places are putting others at risk and deserve to be called out.” Most Republicans chose the latter statement.
Republicans don’t just support masks. They support mask mandates. Two weeks ago, in an AP/NORC poll, a two-to-one Republican majority (58 percent to 27 percent) endorsed “requiring Americans to wear face masks when they’re around other people outside their homes.” Seventy percent of Republicans said that as schools reopened, “requiring all students and staff [to] wear face masks” was essential or important. In a Yahoo News poll released on Friday, 57 percent of Republicans said it should be “mandatory to wear a mask in public,” and 65 percent said it should be mandatory to do so in “states with large numbers of new COVID-19 cases.”
If you’re a member of Congress, you might assume that opposing a federal mandate, as opposed to state or local mandates, is the safe position in the GOP. But you’d be mistaken.