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Seven in 10 back mandatory use of masks in shops in England, poll finds | World news

Concerns that the wearing of masks could become a new front in a political “culture war” have been eased after evidence emerged that a clear majority of the public back their use in shops and supermarkets.

An Opinium poll for the Observer reveals that 71% of adults in England support making masks mandatory in shops, with only 13% opposed to the move. Support was consistent across parties and age groups. Almost two-thirds of UK adults (64%) said they believed masks were an effective way to contain the spread of Covid-19.

There is also wide acceptance that the value of masks is to protect other people. Most people (54%) say masks are worn mainly to prevent the person wearing it accidentally infecting others, while 30% say they are needed to protect others and prevent others infecting them. Just 8% believe masks are mainly to protect the person wearing them.

The findings follow complaints from some Conservative MPs after it was announced last week that masks will be compulsory in shops in England from this Friday, with a £100 fine for those who flout the law. One senior Tory said the use of masks was “absurd” and “only imposed for the convenience of the government”. Last week Tory MP Desmond Swayne said the order to wear a mask was a “monstrous imposition”, adding: “Nothing would make me less likely to go shopping than the thought of having to mask up.”

Prominent rightwing commentators have also criticised the move, leading to some suggestions that mask-wearing would become as politically divisive as it is in the US. But the new poll suggests such fears are overblown.

Most people shopping or travelling on public transport are taking and wearing masks.
Most people shopping or travelling on public transport are taking and wearing mask.

Adam Drummond, associate director of Opinium, said: “The consistent trend of polling on public safety measures during the coronavirus crisis has been that the public are much more safety-first than we think and that complaints that public health measures trample on ancient sacred liberties are an extremely niche concern. Like the original lockdown measures, making masks mandatory in shops is seen as effective and reasonable, and is very popular with supporters of all parties.”

The poll showed that the Conservative lead has widened to eight points over Labour, while approval of the government’s handling of Covid-19 has increased to a net -5, the best since mid-May. Opinium polled 2,003 people online from 15 to 17 July.

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