Majorities support vaccine mandates for some activities amidst delta surge

Although concern about contracting COVID-19 has risen, personal precautions remain largely unchanged.

August 20, 2021

As COVID-19 cases quickly rise throughout the United States, most Americans support vaccine mandates for crowded events, air travel, healthcare professionals, and workers that interact with the public.

While worries about the COVID-19 virus have grown as cases of the delta variant rise throughout the country, precautionary measures including mask wearing and social distancing have not returned to the levels seen before vaccines were widely available. Confidence in the vaccines to withstand the variants has not waned, either.  

Concerns about contracting the coronavirus are at their highest level since January, with 41% of Americans saying they are extremely or very worried that they or a member of their family would become infected. This is up from 21% in June, the lowest level of concern since the beginning of the pandemic.

Confidence in vaccine effectiveness against new variants has remained largely unchanged since last month. Democrats, older Americans, and the vaccinated remain more confident in the vaccines than other Americans.

Despite increased concern about contracting COVID-19, Americans’ precautionary habits have remained largely unchanged since June. At least half continue to stay away from large groups, wear face masks when around people outside their home, and avoid nonessential travel. Vaccinated Americans are more likely to maintain these habits than the unvaccinated.

Fifty-five percent of adults support requiring Americans to wear face masks when they’re around other people outside their homes, while 26% oppose. Democrats are more likely to support mask requirements (81%) compared to independents (48%) and Republicans (26%). Seventy percent of Black adults and 85% of Asian adults support a mask mandate, while just 49% of white adults and 54% of Hispanic adults agree. 

As several cities begin enforcing COVID-19 vaccine mandates, most Americans favor a mandate for those attending crowded public events or traveling on an airplane. Half think people should be fully vaccinated in order to go to a bar or restaurant.

More than half of Americans support vaccination requirements for government workers, members of the military, and workers who interact with the public, like at restaurants and stores. About 6 in 10 support vaccine mandates for hospital or other health care workers.

Overall, 71% of Americans report receiving at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Democrats, college graduates, and adults 60 and older are more likely to have been inoculated.

The nationwide poll was conducted August 12-16, 2021 using the AmeriSpeak® Panel, the probability-based panel of NORC at the University of Chicago. Online and telephone interviews using landlines and cell phones were conducted with 1,729 adults. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3.2 percentage points.

Asian, Black, and Hispanic respondents were sampled at a higher rate than their proportion of the population for reasons of analysis. The margin of sampling error for the 318 completed interviews with Asian respondents is +/- 8.2 percentage points, for the 337 Black respondents it is +/- 6.7 percentage points, and for the 301 Hispanic respondents it is +/- 7.5 percentage points. 

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