Just 37% of US adults say they’re bothered when people around them in public don’t wear masks, a drop of 35 percentage points since 2020, according to a survey published Wednesday by Pew Research Group reflecting increasingly relaxed attitudes toward masking among both Republicans and Democrats.
The proportion of people who said they were bothered when others didn’t mask in public fell from 55% in November 2020 to 18% in May 2022 among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents and from 87% to 52% among Democrats and Democratic-leaning Independents, Pew found.
However, most Americans are still happy to mask up when businesses ask them to—the proportion of Americans bothered when businesses require masking shifted slightly from 28% in November 2020 to 32% in May 2022, rising from 36% to 52% among Republicans and falling slightly from 20% to 16% among Democrats.
The proportion of Americans who wore masks all or most of the time while in businesses plunged from 61% in January’s omicron surge to 30% in May, reflecting a dramatic decline in Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths over that period.
Though mask-wearing behavior remains highly polarized, both Republicans and Democrats have masked less since the initial omicron surge subsided—Pew found mask-wearing in businesses fell from 79% in January to 42% in May among Democrats and from 39% to 14% among Republicans.
Pew found extreme division over the question of mask mandates for transport—57% of US adults said masks should be required on planes and public transport, including 80% of Democrats and 29% of Republicans.
Pew surveyed 10,282 US adults from May 2-8.