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Here's why conservatives are less likely wear face masks in the US: study

Airmen from the 18th Medical Group conduct COVID-19 testing at Kadena Air Base, Japan, March 20. Under the most current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, the 18 MDG has increased its testing for the disease. Those who are tested become Persons Under Investigation (PUI), are contacted by Public Health, placed into isolation and instructed on how to avoid spread of their illness to family members in the home. Public Health interviews the PUI and develops a list of “close contacts” who are then called and given instructions to quarantine for 14 days. A close contact is someone who lived with or cared for a PUI, had direct physical contact with a PUI, or shared eating utensils or had prolonged close conversation with a PUI. On average, lab results take 2-5 days to return. If results are negative, isolated and quarantined individuals will be notified and released. If results come back positive, quarantine for the close contact will continue for 14 days and isolation for the PUI will continue until the PUI is medically cleared. Someone who has had contact with someone deemed a close contact does not need to be placed in quarantine but should continue to practice social distancing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mandy Foster)

In most countries, wearing a face mask in response to the coronavirus pandemic is viewed as common sense; among the American far right, however, it has been politicized and is seen as an attack on President Donald Trump. Many of Trump’s allies and supporters have failed to take the pandemic seriously, and Dr. Vinita Mehta examines the political divide surrounding coronavirus in the U.S. in a June 28 article for Psychology Today.


“Sadly, even an existential public health crisis like the global pandemic is deeply mired in partisan politics,” Mehta explains. “According to one poll, 35% of conservatives expressed concern about coronavirus, by comparison to 68% of liberals. And only 42% of Republicans feared that they or a family member would be exposed to the virus — but a whopping 73% of Democrats and 64% independents reported feeling scared.”

However, Mehta adds, conservatives typically “fear getting sick more than liberals”— so why aren’t they worried about coronavirus? According to Mehta, a study by Lucian Conway of the University of Montana offers some insights on why Republicans and Democrats are likely to view coronavirus differently.

“Conservatives may be less affected by the pandemic than liberals in the U.S.,” Mehta writes. “After all, liberals and conservatives often reside in different regions of the country, and with varying levels of exposure to the virus. Thus, decreased concern would be based in actual experience.”

Mehta adds that conservatives are “more dismissive of the pandemic than liberals because of their political beliefs.”

“Simply put, since conservatives typically don’t support government restrictions, they are motivated to diminish the seriousness of the threat,” Mehta notes. "If they took the threat more seriously, they would have to consider governmental measures that are incompatible with their beliefs.”

Mehta concludes her article by stressing that COVID-19 doesn’t make a distinction between liberals and conservatives.

“Will the recent outbreaks in the U.S. help us see the threat more clearly?,” Mehta writes. “ Let’s hope so, because in the case of COVID-19 political partisanship could have the power to kill.”

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