August 2021 Article 2

Americans back tough rules and mask mandates to protect the common good

As a fourth wave of the coronavirus surges, Americans by a wide margin say protecting the common good is more important than ensuring personal liberty when considering whether to require people to get a COVID-19 vaccination or wear a protective mask.
An overwhelming 72%-28% of those surveyed by USA TODAY and Ipsos called mask mandates “a matter of health and safety,” not an infringement on personal liberty. By 61%-39%, they endorsed requiring vaccinations except for those with a medical or religious exemption.
”I think everybody should be able to make their own decision as long as they’re not hurting someone else,” said Donna Sharp, 54, of Wynne, Arkansas, a caregiver who was among those called in the poll. “But in the case of this, with the vaccine, in a way you are hurting other people if you don’t get it and you spread it.”
That view isn’t universal, though. Nearly 1 in 5 said they hadn’t gotten a COVID-19 shot and don’t plan to anytime soon – underscoring the complicated terrain ahead as the number of cases diagnosed and deaths recorded rise, especially in communities with low vaccination rates.
“I think the mandates and requirements are against our rights as being U.S. citizens,” said Carlie Wright, 30, a stay-at-home mother of two sons from Logan, Utah, who has declined to get a vaccine or wear a mask. “We shouldn’t have government to control our lives and tell us what they can and can’t do.”
By more than 2-1, 70%-30%, Americans agreed that people have the right to choose not to get the vaccine but that they then don’t have the right to be around the vaccinated. There was significant support for businesses, employers, colleges, restaurants, airlines and others to bar those who hadn’t gotten the shot.
The COVID culture war: At what point should personal freedom yield to the common good?
The practical and the philosophical
That debate is reverberating across the country as school districts prepare to reopen in the next few weeks and businesses begin to bring back employees who have been working remotely during the pandemic. The Biden administration last week threatened to cut off federal funding to nursing homes that didn’t require staffers to be vaccinated. In Texas and Florida, some school districts confronted governors over whether they could require masks.
The poll found broad backing for tough steps against those who were eligible to get the vaccine but declined:
66% supported state and local governments requiring masks.
62% supported employers requiring workers to get the vaccination.
68% supported businesses refusing service to the unvaccinated.
65% supported a ban on the unvaccinated traveling by airplane or mass transit.
65% supported sporting events and concerts barring the unvaccinated.
71% said colleges had a right to require students to be vaccinated to return to campus.
“It’s a very fine line, but there comes a certain point a person’s liberties end,” said Michael Tricarico, 50, a transit system worker from Brooklyn. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.
“Among those surveyed, some steps were seen as going too far; 62% opposed firing the unvaccinated from their jobs. But a majority also rejected the idea that nothing should happen to them as a result of their decision.
For most, the practical trumped the philosophical on a question of public health. By 75%-25%, they said getting the vaccine was less about protecting the individual and more about stopping the spread of COVID-19.
Page, Susan. 2021. “No vaccination? Americans back tough rules and mask mandates to protect the common good”. USA Today.