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A study has found that people who identify as right-wing politically are more reluctant to wear face covers to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Researchers in the UK and US discovered that those who were more right-leaning were more likely to agree that wearing a covering is “not cool”, “shameful” and a “sign of weakness”.
It comes as people will need to wear a face covering in shopping centres, banks, takeaway outlets, sandwich shops and supermarkets under new regulations due to come into force in England on Friday.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) now recommends face coverings in indoor spaces and when social distancing is not possible after updating earlier guidance.
The research – carried out by Dr Valerio Capraro, a senior lecturer in economics at Middlesex University, and Hélène Barcelo, from the Mathematical Science Research Institute in Berkeley, California – analysed people’s intention to wear face coverings.
In one study, subjects were asked about how likely they were to wear a face mask outside the home, engaging in social activities and with people from another household, and how they best best described their political views.
The survey of 2,459 people living in the US using the crowdsourcing website, Amazon Mechanical Turk, found that the average for left-leaning respondents’ intentions to wear a face covering was higher than right-leaning people.
After being asked if they would agree or disagree with the statements “wearing a mask is not cool”, “wearing a mask is a sign of weakness” and “wearing a mask is shameful”, they also found that right-leaning people were more likely to express negative emotions when wearing a mask.
A second study, which surveyed 1,920 people living in the US again using the crowdsourcing website Amazon Mechanical Turk, had the same outcome.
Dr Capraro said: “This study was conducted in the US. However, looking at how politicians behave across Europe and the UK, I think it’s fair to say that we are seeing a behaviour that is consistent with this data.
“In the UK, until very recently there were no pictures of Boris Johnson wearing a mask. He started wearing one when it became mandatory, exactly in line with our data.
“Our data show that right-wing leaning people intend to wear a face mask less than left-wing leaning people. Interestingly, this difference is particularly strong in US counties where wearing a face mask is not mandatory. In counties where wearing a face mask is mandatory, left-leaning people are still more likely than right-leaning people to wear a face mask, but the difference across the political divide is much smaller, and almost non-existent.
“In sum, making it mandatory to wear a face mask has a greater effect on right-leaning people, compared to left-leaning people, who wear a face mask relatively independently of whether it is mandatory or not.”
The researchers also found that men are less likely wear face masks than women, and more inclined to see wearing one as “shameful” and a “sign of weakness”. People are much more likely to wear face masks if they rely on reasoning instead of emotion, they also say.
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