The CDC’s rules changed, but Americans’ behavior has not

May 25, 2021, 6:10 PM UTC

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed the rules for mask wearing – at least for vaccinated Americans — but so far behavior hasn’t changed much, according to the latest Economist/YouGov poll.

As in last week’s poll (conducted before the new CDC face mask guidance), half the public (47%) always wears a facemask when they go outdoors, a figure that includes three in five (61%) Democrats but just one-third (32%) of Republicans.

Three in five of those who reject the vaccine are already going without masks all (30%) or most of the time (30%), while more than half of those who are fully vaccinated (55%) continue to always wear a mask whenever they leave the house. Another one-quarter of fully vaccinated adults (23%) wear a mask most of the time.

A majority approve the CDC’s guidance that vaccinated Americans can go without masks in all but crowded places by nearly two to one (57% to 31%). But that support includes most of those who say they won’t be vaccinated (55% vs 28%), for whom whatever the CDC says may not matter.  

Those who are fully vaccinated remain more worried about contracting COVID-19 than those who say they will not be vaccinated. Half (52%) of those who are fully vaccinated are very or somewhat worried about experiencing COVID-19, while 23% of vaccine rejectors are worried. Those still awaiting their first shot are the most concerned: two-thirds (67%) of them say they are worried now about personally contracting COVID-19. 

So it may not be a surprise to learn that those who have been vaccinated fully are more likely to believe the new CDC rules aren’t strict enough (33%) than to think they are too strict (9%), the opposite of those who will not be vaccinated. One-third of those who do not plan to get vaccinated (32%) say the guidance is still too strict, compared to 17% who say it is not strict enough.

See the toplines and crosstabs from this week’s Economist/YouGov poll 

Related: One year after the killing of George Floyd, most see minority-police relations as bad

Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 US Adult Citizens interviewed online between May 15 - 18, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the US Bureau of the Census, as well as 2016 Presidential vote, registration status, geographic region, and news interest. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all US citizens. The margin of error is approximately 2.7% for the overall sample. 

Image: Getty