Lockdowns and mask mandates: Are they civil rights violations?

Graeme BruceBusiness Data Journalist
September 21, 2020, 5:41 PM UTC

About a quarter of the American population thinks local stay-at-home orders are a violation of civil liberties, according to a recent YouGov poll of nearly 9,000 Americans. 

While 26 percent say stay-at-home orders are a violation, most Americans (60%) say they aren’t, and another 14 percent aren’t sure. 

This data comes after United States Attorney General Bill Barr made incendiary comments that shutdowns meant to help stop the spread of COVID-19 were the “greatest intrusion on civil liberties” other than slavery. Americans may also be facing the possibility of another shutdown as the threat of a second wave looms. 

Men (34%) are significantly more likely than women (18%) to view such orders as a violation of their civil liberties, as are Republicans (51%) compared to Democrats (9%). 

YouGov also asked about a federal mask mandate and found roughly the same number (26%) of Americans view it as a civil liberties violation, while 64 percent don’t, and 11 percent aren’t sure. Similar divides to shutdown orders are seen along gender and political lines. About a third (34%) of men and 19 percent of women see a national mask mandate as a violation. Roughly half (53%) of Republicans and eight percent of Democrats agree. 

The United States does not have a national mask mandate, but a patchwork of rules and laws across the country means 77 percent of Americans wear a mask when in public, according to YouGov’s coronavirus public monitor. 

Methodology: The survey questions, “Do you believe that local stay-at-home orders (with limited allowances for essential workers and to run essential errands) due to COVID-19 are a violation of your civil liberties, or not?” and “Do you believe that a federal mask mandate would be a violation of your civil liberties, or not?” was asked of 8,994 US adults ages 18 and over. Interviews were conducted online September 17 – 18, 2020. Results are weighted to be nationally representative.     

Image: Getty