A majority of Americans favor a mask mandate on airplanes and other forms of public transportation despite a federal judge ending the policy this week.
A survey by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 56 percent of Americans believe the policy should remain in place.
Just 24 percent are opposed to the policy, and 20 percent are neither in favor nor opposed.
Most airlines and airports immediately ended the requirement even though COVID-19 case numbers in America have started to tick up once again.
Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Spirit, Southwest, and United were among the airlines to quickly drop the mandate, saying masks for both crew and passengers are now optional.
“While this means that our employees are no longer required to wear a mask — and no longer have to enforce a mask requirement for most of the flying public — they will be able to wear masks if they choose to do so,” United Airlines told NPR in a statement similar to the other airlines. “The CDC continues to strongly recommend wearing a mask on public transit.”
The poll found a major partisan divide on the mask policy. Some 80 percent of Democrats favor keeping it in place, with just 5 percent opposed. Among Republicans, 33 percent are in favor, while 45 percent oppose.
Leitchfield, Kentucky, resident Betty Harp told the Associated Press that she thinks the mandate should remain in place. Harp, 84, said she’s lost several friends and family to the virus.
“I know COVID is still here. It’s still around,” said Harp. “I think we should all be wearing masks for a little while longer.”
The Justice Department has appealed the judge’s opinion, which could lead to confusion should the ruling be overturned. If that were to happen, the White House and the CDC would then need to decide whether to re-institute the policy.
The Association of Flight Attendants, the largest union for flight crews, has taken a neutral position on the mask issue. Flight attendants have taken a large amount of abuse over the policy and enforcing it, but its members are divided on the issue.
AFA leader Sara Nelson asked travelers for calm as the new policies are put in place.
“The last thing we need for workers on the frontlines or passengers traveling today is confusion and chaos,” Nelson said.
The survey of 1,085 adults was conducted from April 14–18 before the judge’s ruling. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.
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