Conservatism and Infrequent Mask Usage: A Study of US Counties During the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic


Objective: Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eventually recommended wearing masks in public to slow the spread of the Coronavirus, the practice has been unevenly distributed in the United States. Methods: In this article, we model county‐level infrequent mask usage as a function of three pillars of conservatism: (1) Republican political leadership (percentage of votes for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election), (2) conservative Protestantism (percentage evangelical Christian), and (3) right‐wing media consumption (Google searches for Fox News). Results: Our analyses indicate that mask usage tends to be lower in counties with greater support for President Trump (in majority Trump counties), counties with more evangelical Christians, and areas with greater interest in Fox News. Conclusion: Given the effectiveness of masks in limiting the transmission of respiratory droplets, conservative ideological resistance to public health and recommended pandemic lifestyles may indirectly support the spread of the coronavirus.

Social Science Quarterly, 102:2368-2382
Kelsey E. Gonzalez
Kelsey E. Gonzalez
PhD Candidate

Computational Social Scientist; Data Scientist; Sociologist.