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UW survey: Indoor masks yes, outdoors no

JACKSON, Wyo. — A slight majority (56 percent) of Wyoming residents now say they would strongly or somewhat support local ordinances requiring face mask use in indoor public places, while 36 percent say they strongly or somewhat oppose such measures, according to a new survey by the University of Wyoming’s Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center (WYSAC). The findings flipped around exactly opposite, however, when the question comes to wearing masks outdoors.

Asked about a face mask ordinance in their communities requiring use in outdoor public places, 56 percent opposed, while 36 percent said they would support.

The survey, conducted Tuesday, July 14, is the sixth of multiple surveys WYSAC is conducting to measure public opinion on a number of topics related to COVID-19. A total of 504 Wyoming residents participated in the survey representing all Wyoming counties, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

“We see an increase for all face mask-related topics since we began measuring in these items in March,” says Brian Harnisch, senior research scientist in charge of the project at WYSAC. “Nearly half of all Wyoming residents now say they wear masks when visiting indoor public places, while over half say they would support local ordinances requiring use in indoor public places.”

Comfort levels for attending outdoor events in Wyoming this summer and fall have decreased since June, with 45 percent of residents saying they would be comfortable attending an outdoor event with up to 250 people—down from 56 percent in June. When considering outdoor events with more than 250 people, 40 percent of residents say they would be comfortable attending—down from 52 percent in June.

People were asked a series of questions regarding factors that might make them more or less likely to attend outdoor events this summer or fall:

  • 40 percent say they would be more likely to attend if face masks were required of all attendees, while 35 percent said they would be less likely.
  • 31 percent say they would be more likely to attend if there were special “safe zones” or similarly designated areas where face mask use and social distancing were required and enforced; 25 percent say they would be less likely to attend.
  • If face mask use were optional, 23 percent say they would be more likely to attend, while 40 percent say they would be less likely to attend.
  • If all attendees had a temperature check upon entry, 38 percent say they would be more likely to attend, while 16 percent say they would be less likely to attend.
  • If hand-sanitizing stations were available throughout the venue, 47 percent say they would be more likely to attend, while 4 percent say they would be less likely to attend.
  • 42 percent say they would be more likely to attend an outdoor event if social distancing rules for attendees were enforced everywhere at the event, while 24 percent say they would be less likely to attend.
  • If there were maximum occupancy/attendee numbers enforced to promote social distancing, 44 percent say they would be more likely to attend, while 17 percent say they would be less likely to attend.
  • If there were no social distancing rules, 15 percent say they would be more likely to attend, while 53 percent say they would be less likely to attend an outdoor event this summer or fall.

Since the last survey iteration June 8, there has been an increase in the proportion of people who support policies enacted to limit public gatherings, with 61 percent saying they support such policies, an increase of 4 percentage points. However, support for the closure of K-12 schools, day care centers, and bars and restaurants continues to decline, as does support for a “shelter-in-place” order.

Specifically:

  • 37 percent said they would support the closure of K-12 schools, a decrease of 16 points since June.
  • 34 percent said they would support the closure of day care centers, a decrease of 13 points since June.
  • 40 percent said they would support the closure of bars and restaurants, a decrease of 4 points since June.
  • 27 percent said they would support a shelter-in-place order, a decrease of 6 points since June.

Concerns related to COVID-19 increased for almost all aspects in this survey iteration, a reversal of the downward trend observed since March:

  • 25 percent say they are very anxious about the spread of COVID-19 in the United States (+13 points since June).
  • 17 percent say they are very anxious about the spread of COVID-19 in Wyoming (+9 points since June).
  • 45 percent think the worst is yet to come in the United States (+19 points since June).
  • 42 percent think the worst is yet to come in Wyoming (+14 points since June).
  • Asked if they think COVID-19 is a real threat or blown out of proportion, 53 percent believe it is a real threat, an increase of 9 points since June.
  • 23 percent of residents now say they are worried someone in their immediate family might catch COVD-19, an increase of 9 points since June.

Approval of the way Gov. Mark Gordon is handling the COVID-19 crisis remains high, with 66 percent saying they strongly approve or somewhat approve of the way he is handling things. Gordon’s net approval rating (approval minus disapproval) is at plus 35 percent.

Approval of the way President Donald Trump is handling the COVID-19 decreases significantly, with 49 percent saying they strongly approve or somewhat approve of the way he is handling things. President Trump’s net approval rating is at plus 2 points, down from plus 17 points in June.

Regarding the way local government and health officials are handling the COVID-19 crisis, 66 percent say they strongly approve or somewhat approve of the way they are handling things.

Approval of the way Congress is handling the COVID-19 crisis decreased 7 percentage points, with 25 percent saying they strongly approve or somewhat approve of the way Congress is handling things. The net approval rating for congress is minus 39 percentage points.

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