- 56% always or usually wear a mask indoors with non-household members
- By contrast, 89% always or usually wear a mask in stores and businesses
- Older Americans among least likely to wear a mask at private gatherings
Editor's Note: The research below was conducted in partnership between Franklin Templeton and Gallup.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As COVID-19 cases are surging nationwide and health officials attribute the uptick at least in part to small family get-togethers and other private social gatherings, new data from the Franklin Templeton-Gallup Economics of Recovery Study show that Americans are much less likely to wear a mask when indoors with non-household members than they are to wear one inside stores and other businesses.
Fifty-six percent of U.S. adults say they "always" or "usually" wear a mask when indoors with family and friends from outside their household, while 89% say they do so in public settings.
Custom graphic. 56% of Americans always or usually wear a mask when indoors with non-household members. By contrast, 89% of Americans always or usually wear a mask when inside stores or other businesses.
These results are based on 5,026 web-based surveys completed Nov. 1-6. This study is conducted via an opt-in web panel. The sample has been adjusted statistically to ensure it represents key subgroups of the U.S. adult population in their proper proportions.
Masks a Key Source of Confidence in the Ability to Avoid Infection
Previous analyses from the Franklin Templeton-Gallup research have established a strong link between Americans' confidence that they can protect themselves from COVID-19 infection in public and their likelihood to engage in "public consumption" behaviors like dining in restaurants and staying in hotels.
The data further indicate that mask-wearing is a primary source of such confidence. In the most recent survey, those who said they are confident in their ability to protect themselves in public were asked about possible reasons why. By far, the most common response -- given by 71% -- is that they wear a mask in public. The next most common responses, each given by about half of those who express confidence, is that other people wear masks in public (51%) and other people maintain social distance from each other (49%).
Custom graphic. 71% of Americans say they are confident they can protect themselves from COVID-19 infection in public because they wear a mask while in public. 51% believe they can protect themselves from infection because other people wear masks when in public.
However, the familiarity of small, private gatherings with family and friends may imbue many people with an undue sense that they can protect themselves without adhering to the same precautions they would observe in public. On Dec. 4, after the current survey was completed, the CDC issued new guidelines that further emphasized the importance of masks -- including in homes under certain circumstances, such as when non-household members are in the home. It's possible that mask use at home has risen somewhat since the survey as a result of that guidance.
The November survey also found substantial differences between mask use in stores/businesses and private gatherings across demographic groups. While there is less variation in rates of mask use in public, some groups are much more likely than others to say they usually or always wear a mask when indoors with family or friends from outside their household. Democrats are more likely than Republicans and independents to respond this way. Notably, though Americans aged 55 and older are most likely to say they always or usually wear a mask in stores and other businesses, they are least likely to say they do so when indoors with family or friends from outside their household.
Custom graphic. 47% of Republicans always or usually wear a mask when indoors with non-household members, compared with 65% of Democrats. Older Americans, those aged 55 and older, are the least likely to wear a mask when indoors with non-household members, at 51%.
With Hanukkah underway and Christmas rapidly approaching, the risk of COVID-19 transmission in small gatherings with family and friends from outside one's household is more salient than ever. Understandably, many Americans appear to be less comfortable with wearing a mask in such circumstances than they are in public places. However, their willingness to take such precautions may significantly influence the severity of the pandemic in early 2021.