“I’m following COVID rules properly, but other people aren’t”, say half of voters

Jamie BallardData Journalist
October 26, 2020, 1:00 PM UTC

Voters are far more likely to have noticed failures to properly protect against coronavirus when committed by others than by themselves, data from a recent Yahoo News/YouGov survey shows. 

For instance, while 18% of registered voters say there have been occasions where they have neglected to social distance when it would have been appropriate, almost four times as many (70%) say that they’ve witnessed others in their community failing to do so.  

Combining people’s responses to these two questions shows that 47% of voters believe they’ve practiced appropriate social distancing at all times, while simultaneously spotting others slipping up.  

Only 16% of Americans say that both themselves and people in their neighborhood haven’t followed the rules as diligently as they could, while another 17% say they themselves have broken the guidelines but not noticed anyone else doing so. 

It’s a similar story when it comes to face masks. While 18% of voters say they’ve neglected to wear a mask when it would have been appropriate, far more (71%) point the finger at their communities. 

Again, combining the responses finds around half (53%) believe that they themselves have behaved properly while noticing that others haven’t. 

In both cases, women are more likely than men to believe they’ve managed to maintain correct COVID-19 practice, but others haven’t (50% vs 43% in the case of social distancing, 56% vs 49% in the case of masks). 

Men, for their part, are more likely to think that both they themselves and their wider community have failed to meet the right standards (22% vs 12% for social distancing, 20% vs 13% for masks). 

It is likely to be mathematically impossible that people’s perceptions are correct, with the most likely reason being that voters are overestimating how well they have followed correct coronavirus protocols. 

This would not be the first time a YouGov survey has uncovered evidence of the population’s collective self-image not stacking up with what’s possible. In 2014 a survey asking Americans how smart they thought they were showed that most (55%) considered themselves smarter than average, while just 4% believed they had below-average intelligence. 

See the toplines and crosstabs from this Yahoo News/YouGov Poll    

Methodology: The Yahoo! News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,583 U.S. registered voters interviewed online between October 16 – 18, 2020. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, as well as 2016 Presidential vote, registration status, geographic region, and news interest. The margin of error for the sample was 4.0%