After months of belittling or opposing the use of masks against the novel coronavirus, Republican politicians are coming around. Even President Donald Trump, who has scorned masks, now promotes them in scripted briefings. Instead, Trump and his proteges have drawn a new line: They’re against requiring people to wear face coverings. “I want people to have a certain freedom,” Trump argued in a Fox News interview on July 19. But one important constituency disagrees with Trump’s position: Republican voters.
Public opinion within the GOP has shifted in favor of masks. In a Navigator survey taken in late May, Republican voters said they were “pro-mask,” not “anti-mask,” by a margin of 24 percentage points. By July, that margin had grown to 38 points. In the May survey, 24 percent of Republicans said they generally didn’t wear masks; by July, that number was down to 13 percent. The July Navigator survey also asked voters to choose between two statements: that “there is too much shaming of people for not wearing masks” or that “people who don’t wear masks in public places are putting others at risk and deserve to be called out.” Most Republicans chose the latter statement.