Almost two-thirds of all Utahns support a mandate, statewide, requiring wearing of virus-protecting face masks for all those out in public, a new UtahPolicy.com/KUTV 2News poll shows.

So far, despite increasing COVID-19 cases, the Herbert administration has not imposed a statewide mask mandate.

Among all Utahns, 61 percent said they “strongly” or “somewhat” support a state mandate on mask wearing in public, with 44 percent saying they “strongly” support such a mandate.

Forty percent said they “somewhat” or “strongly” oppose such a facemask mandate, with 30 percent “strongly” against it.

So, the sentiment among the majority of Utahns is clear -- the state should mandate mask wearing in public.

But look at the partisan and political philosophy breakouts and it’s clear that conservatives oppose mask mandates and support Gov. Gary Herbert’s position.

  • “Strong Republicans” oppose mandatory mask-wearing, 73-27 percent.
  • Those who said they are “strong conservatives” politically oppose a state mandatory mask order, 85-16 percent.

And, you guessed it, Democrats, liberals, independents and independents-leaning Democrats really, really favor mandatory mask wearing in public.
And those are the folks less likely to vote for Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox to replace Herbert on Nov. 3. The no-mask mandate plays well with the GOP/conservative voting base. Mask mandates have taken on political overtones both nationally and in Utah as President Donald Trump, the GOP party nominee this year, routinely belittles mask wearing and rarely wears a mask himself while in public.

  • Independents, who don’t belong to any party, favor a Utah statewide mask wearing mandate, 70-30 percent.
  • “Strong Democrats” favor the mandate, 100 percent to zero.
  • “Strong liberal” Utahns favor mask wearing mandate, 99-1 percent.

And there is a real gender gap in the poll results: Men support mandatory mask wearing statewide, 56-43 percent. But women favor a mask wearing mandate, 63-37 percent, a seven-point gender difference.

Herbert has said that health data on the number of coronavirus cases, on a seven-day rolling average, along with other public health metrics determines his policies on fighting the coronavirus. He has said local officials are free to impose mask mandates in their jurisdictions

He and his top health aides last week moved Provo City and Orem City from “yellow” back to “orange” in the virus-fighting ratings after there was a clear “spike,” or outbreak, of new coronavirus cases, after Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University students went back to in-class schooling. “Orange” does not require mandatory mask wearing in public, but deals with other public health issues, like the number of people who can gather in public and legal public events.

The Y2 poll was finished -- out of the sampling field -- before the Utah County “spike” showed up in state health department count figures -- and Herbert moved the county’s two largest cities into “orange.”

Soon after Herbert’s press briefing last week, by a 2-1 vote the Utah County Commission issued a mandatory mask order for the whole county. Herbert didn’t issue that order, but he encouraged it.

So that Utah County outbreak, and the following mandate order’s impact, is not reflected in the new poll numbers.

But the new polling data shows how that very conservative part of the Wasatch Front was less supportive of mandatory masks than other urban areas of the state:

In Utah County, Y2 found, 57 percent of residents support a mandatory public mask wearing order, while 43 percent opposed it -- before such an order was in fact made by the County Commission.

But in Salt Lake County (which has a mandatory mask wearing order imposed by County Mayor Jenny Wilson months ago), it’s 74 percent support, 26 percent oppose -- 3-to-1.

Cache County, which has seen coronavirus outbreaks earlier this year, it is 54-22 percent in support for masks.

Weber County is 66-34 percent in support of mandatory mask order.

Davis County is 61-39 percent in favor.

Washington County, which has also battled virus outbreaks, but is still rural and conservative in nature, sees 61 percent opposed to public mask mandate, 39 percent in favor.

And the other parts of the state, mostly rural and conservative, are 69 percent opposed and 31 percent in favor.

Herbert has said time and again that he doesn’t believe it makes sense to have a statewide mask wearing order, since different parts of the state are seeing varying, even little, virus infections.

Cox, who won the close June GOP four-way primary for the gubernatorial Republican nomination with 36 percent of the vote, has steadfastly refused to say whether he supports or opposes mandatory mask wearing order statewide. Cox says he can’t “get out in front” of the governor on this issue.

But Herbert told reporters last week that he has not demanded that of his second-in-command, and that Cox is free to decide his own virus-fighting policies. Cox’s LG running mate, Sen. Diedre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, who caught the virus and is recuperating, said last week that she favors a mandatory mask wearing order in Utah County (before the commission issued such an order), after the outbreak of the virus among college students.
Herbert continues to argue that Utah has the best coronavirus planning and virus-fighting programs in the nation. Our economy is coming back better than just about any other state, says Herbert. Jobless rates are also the best nationally, he says.

And Utah death rates for the virus are low, compared to other states; although hospitalizations are on the rise recently.

But there’s no doubt that the number of new virus cases are up statewide, especially in Utah County. The state was averaging new cases below 400 daily just weeks ago, then college students and K-12 kids went back to school and case numbers shot up, topping more than 1,400, a record, last Friday.
And public health experts say (and Herbert has begged for this for months while NOT issuing a mandatory mask wearing anywhere) that wearing masks in public, washing hands and keeping social distancing, outside and inside, are real ways to fight the spread of the sometimes-deadly disease.

Y2 polled 1,102 people from Aug. 19-Sept. 3. The mandatory mask wearing question has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent statewide.