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U.S. Face Mask Usage Relatively Uncommon in Outdoor Settings

U.S. Face Mask Usage Relatively Uncommon in Outdoor Settings

Story Highlights

  • 86% of Americans report routinely using face masks in indoor areas
  • 47% report using masks in outdoor areas

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Current guidance from the CDC recommends people wear face masks when around others and it is not possible to maintain social distance. Americans are much more likely to adhere to mask-wearing recommendations in indoor settings rather than in outdoor settings. Nearly nine in ten Americans report that they "always" (70%) or "usually" (16%) wear masks in such indoor settings. Far fewer, 47%, say they always (29%) or usually (18%) do the same when they are in outdoor settings and unable to socially distance.

Americans' Frequency of Mask Use in Indoor and Out Settings
How often do you wear a mask when outside home in a ... and you cannot socially distance? - % Always/Usually
Indoor setting Outdoor setting
% %
All Americans 86 47
Men 81 39
Women 91 54
Aged 18-44 89 46
Aged 45-64 80 40
Aged 65+ 88 60
White 84 42
Non-White 90 60
Democrat 97 64
Independent 85 43
Republican 70 23
Northeast region 92 55
Midwest region 81 37
South region 86 47
West region 86 49
* Due to rounding, combined percentages may be +/- 1%.
Gallup Panel, Jul 20-Aug 2, 2020

The same pattern holds true across partisan political groups, with all three substantially more likely to report using masks indoors than outdoors. The gaps between partisans are particularly pronounced in both settings. Ninety-seven percent of Democrats report using masks always (88%) or usually (10%) in indoor settings, compared with 70% of Republicans (45% always, 24% usually). While, in outdoor settings, 64% of Democrats say they wear masks, and 23% of Republicans say the same.

Democrats are among the key subgroups most likely to wear masks outdoors, along with seniors, nonwhite adults, and those residing in the Northeast. Republicans are least likely to wear masks indoors or outdoors.

Partisan Gap Shrinks on Overall Mask Use

In a separate question, Gallup asked Americans more generally if they had used a face mask within the last seven days, which 91% of U.S. adults say they have done. However, a partisan gap persists, with Democrats substantially more likely to say they have worn a mask outside in the last week (99%), compared with 80% of Republicans and 91% of independents.


Line graph. Americans use of masks over the last week by their political affiliation. Ninety nine percent of Democrats report having worn masks. Ninety one percent of independents and 80% of Republicans say the same.

These data come from the probability-based online Gallup Panel survey conducted July 20-Aug. 2. During this period, President Donald Trump endorsed the use of face masks for the first time since the CDC recommended them and former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain died from COVID-19.

Among Democrats, 96% or more have reported using face masks since late May. For independents, roughly nine in ten report having used masks since mid-July. Republicans' use of face masks has steadily increased since the end of June, when 66% reported using face masks in the last week, to the current 80%. This increase has resulted in a shrinking, but still apparent, partisan gap on the issue.

Bottom Line

Among Americans as a whole, mask usage is virtually ubiquitous when indoors and unable to social distance. However, far fewer Americans report using them in outdoor settings. This may be due to the perception that outdoor conditions are less conducive to the spread of the disease. With Americans continuing to visit beaches and other outdoor venues, low levels of face-mask use could indicate a potential for increased spread of the disease in these locations.

Learn more about how the Gallup Panel works.

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