Change Over Time in Public Support for Social Distancing, Mask Wearing, and Contact Tracing to Combat the COVID-19 Pandemic Among US Adults, April to November 2020

Am J Public Health. 2021 May;111(5):937-948. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2020.306148. Epub 2021 Mar 18.


Objectives. To examine how sociodemographic, political, religious, and civic characteristics; trust in science; and fixed versus fluid worldview were associated with evolving public support for social distancing, indoor mask wearing, and contact tracing to control the COVID-19 pandemic.Methods. Surveys were conducted with a nationally representative cohort of US adults in April, July, and November 2020.Results. Support for social distancing among US adults dropped from 89% in April to 79% in July, but then remained stable in November 2020 at 78%. In July and November, more than three quarters of respondents supported mask wearing and nearly as many supported contact tracing. In regression-adjusted models, support differences for social distancing, mask wearing, and contact tracing were most pronounced by age, partisanship, and trust in science. Having a more fluid worldview independently predicted higher support for contact tracing.Conclusions. Ongoing resistance to nonpharmaceutical public health responses among key subgroups challenge transmission control.Public Health Implications. Developing persuasive communication efforts targeting young adults, political conservatives, and those distrusting science should be a critical priority.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • COVID-19 / prevention & control*
  • Contact Tracing* / statistics & numerical data
  • Contact Tracing* / trends
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Masks / trends*
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Distancing*
  • Politics
  • Public Health / trends*
  • Science
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires