Most Americans support a flexible approach to the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, with cities reimposing mask mandates when cases surge, even as a growing number are eager to get on with their lives, a Reuters/Ipsos poll completed Friday found.
The results of the two-day poll illustrate the balancing act facing U.S. officials as they navigate a health crisis that will not go away.
Sixty-four percent of U.S. adults — including 83% of Democrats and 46% of Republicans — said cities and states should impose mask mandates for indoor public places if there is a resurgence of COVID-19 in their area, the poll found.
At the same time, 44% of respondents said that Americans need to get back to normal and get on with their lives, up from 36% in a poll completed in early February.
The tension between the two sentiments was apparent this week in Philadelphia, which on Monday became the first major U.S. city to reimpose a mask mandate in settings including restaurants, schools and businesses following a rise in local COVID-19 cases, only to reverse course days later.
City officials in Philadelphia, which like most big American cities is run by Democrats and overwhelmingly voted for Biden in the 2020 presidential election, on Thursday said decreasing hospitalizations and a leveling of case counts warranted a recommendation that residents wear masks in indoor public spaces, rather than a mandate.
The city is the largest in the state of Pennsylvania, which will be a key battleground in November 8 midterm elections when Democrats will wage an uphill battle to preserve slim majorities in Congress.
More than two years into a public health crisis that has killed nearly 1 million Americans, most U.S. states and localities have eased mask and vaccination requirements.
A bipartisan majority of poll respondents, including 53% of Democrats and 78% of Republicans, said the coronavirus pandemic has reached the point at which decisions to wear masks or vaccinate should be left to individuals rather than the government.
At the same time, just over half of respondents in the poll said they were more likely to support candidates in November that support continued rules, including mask requirements, to combat the pandemic.
Sixty-five percent of respondents supported mask requirements on airplanes, trains and public transport, even after a federal court on Monday struck down a federal mask mandate on public transportation and airplanes.
The Biden administration is appealing the court ruling, however, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the measure was still needed.
Only 44% of respondents said Biden has delivered on his 2020 election campaign pledge to try to control the pandemic, and just 35% said he had delivered on his promises to restart the economy hit by the health crisis.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online, in English, throughout the United States, gathering responses from 1,005 adults. It has a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of about 4 percentage points.