Majority support return of mandatory masks, but very few are wearing them every time they shop

Adam McDonnellResearch Director of Political and Social Research
May 16, 2022, 10:42 AM GMT+0

Most Britons are wearing a mask at least some of the times they go shopping, but just 28% of shoppers are doing so on every visit

With Scotland lifting their rules on wearing masks in crowded places earlier this month, it is no longer a legal requirement to do so in any of the British nations. New YouGov data suggests that the public would prefer if these rules were still in place, however, with six in ten (62%) saying they support the reintroduction of mandatory masks in shops. Just a third of Brits (33%) oppose the return of the mask.

This figure may be surprising to those who are greeted by maskless faces in their local supermarket, and they wouldn’t be wrong to be so, as very few people are donning a mask every time they shop. In fact, just 28% of people who have been to a shop in the last seven days say they wore a mask on every time. One in three have worn one most times (19%) or occasionally (14%) while the largest group (39%) have not worn one at all. This means 72% of shoppers have not worn a mask at least once in the last week.

On top of this, regular shoppers are wearing masks less often than occasional shoppers. Just a quarter (24%) who have been to the shops four or more times wore a mask every time, compared to 27% of those who have been two or three times, and 35% of those who’ve just shopped once in the last week.

This means there is a clear disparity between support for the policy and personal action. Indeed, most (58%) of those who think masks should be a legal requirement in shops are not currently religiously wearing one themselves. Just 42% of those who want the rules reinstated have worn a mask on every retail visit, 42% most times/occasionally, and 16% on none of the times they’ve been to a shop in the last week.

The top reason people who want the rules reinstated give for not wearing a mask is that they forgot to bring one (36%), suggesting that, while this group may still support the rule in principle, without it they have become far more lax at always having one to hand. The second most common reason is feeling the specific shop they were visiting felt safe or spacious enough not to bother (19%), an indication that they would wear a mask at busier times or in busier retail areas.

One in eight (12%) cite the law change as key to why they are no longer wearing a mask, while a similar number (11%) say it is because others are no longer wearing a mask. Both reasons imply that were masks to become mandatory again, these people would happily start wearing one again. Finally, 11% say it is their personal choice, or they felt there was no need to wear one. It is this final group that are the most puzzling, as their reasoning suggests that they would be reluctant to wear a mask if it were to become law.

As is to be expected, those who have worn a mask sometimes but not always are far more likely to cite forgetfulness or feeling safe in a specific shop as their reason not to, while those who haven’t worn one at all are more likely to say it is because of the law change or that they don’t feel the need to.

See full results here

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