Is It Still a Mandate If We Don’t Enforce It?: The Politics of COVID-Related Mask Mandates in Conservative States

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Questions of whether to enforce COVID-related mask mandates are complex. While enforced mandates are more effective at controlling community spread, government imposed behavioral controls have met significant opposition in conservative states, where a political bloc on the right is skeptical that COVID presents a significant and immediate threat. The authors conduct a split sample survey in order to examine how inclusion of a fine provision attached to mask mandates affects support. The survey was conducted in Idaho (a Republican dominated state) at a time when a mask mandate was a central debate. Unsurprisingly, respondents were more supportive of a mask mandate if a fine was not included. Further investigation indicates this is primarily a result of shifting Republican attitudes, which highlights the complex political situation in conservative states as leaders consider best mechanisms for battling COVID.