More Britons are wearing face masks following rule changes

Adam McDonnellResearch Director of Political and Social Research
December 16, 2021, 12:16 PM UTC

Some 78% now say they are wearing a mask every time they visit a shop, up from 49% in October

Wearing masks in shops and on public transport became compulsory in England at the beginning of December as part of an attempt to target the Omicron coronavirus variant. This was soon followed by additional rules on wearing masks in other venues such as theatres and cinemas last Friday.

With these restrictions now in place, new YouGov data shows mask-wearing has increased significantly compared to when it was not mandatory. When asked how often they had worn a mask in shops during the previous 7 days, almost eight in ten who had been shopping that week (78%) now say they wore a mask every time. This is up from just half (49%) in October this year.

The proportion of people who wore a mask occasionally or most of the time has fallen from 31% in October to 16% now, while just 5% now say they didn’t wear a mask on any of their shop visits in the previous seven days (down from 20%). This translates to just 22% not wearing a mask on at least one shop visit, down from 51% a couple of months ago.

People aged 18-24 are less likely to say they have worn a mask every time they’ve visited a shop (60%) than older age groups, though only 8% of this group are never wearing masks. The main difference is that far more younger adults are wearing a mask most or some of the time (32%).

Support for masks being compulsory in shops has remained largely unchanged since coming into place. In October, three-quarters of the English public (76%) supported the re-introduction compared to 18% who opposed it. Now the policy has been brough back, some 80% support the decision, versus 17% who are opposed to it.

As is to be expected, mask compliance varies when comparing these two groups. However, even those who oppose the policy are somewhat compliant with just a third (33%) not wearing one at all. Just over a quarter (28%) of these people say they wore a mask on every shop visit, but around four in ten (39%) say they wore a mask some or most of the time they went to a shop.

The much larger group of supporters of mandatory mask-wearing, self-report high compliance. Approaching nine in ten (88%) say they used a mask on every shop visit during the previous seven days, 12% on most or some of the visits, and less than 1% didn’t wear one at all.

See full results here