Republicans to Trump: Wear a mask

Quint Forgey

President Donald Trump has faced plenty of criticism from Democrats throughout the coronavirus pandemic — including for his refusal to wear a mask.

But according to a new survey, even most Republicans think Trump and Vice President Mike Pence should sport face coverings when traveling in public. It’s a rare point of bipartisan consensus during a public health crisis that’s become deeply politicized.

Whether encouraging a rapid economic reopening or excoriating China for mishandling the initial outbreak, GOP lawmakers and leading party figures have largely fallen in line with the administration’s coronavirus messaging as Trump seeks to engineer a financial recovery and salvage his reelection campaign.

On the issue of masks, however, more than 70 percent of respondents in a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll to be published Wednesday say that when Trump and Pence travel, they should wear face coverings in public places. Concurring with that position are 82 percent of Democrats, 70 percent of independents and 58 percent of Republicans.

Only 12 percent say the president and vice president should not wear masks in public places, and 17 percent say they do not know or have no opinion.

“When it comes to President Trump and Vice President Pence, there is a rare, bipartisan consensus among voters that they should be wearing masks when in public. This issue is sure to remain center-stage as the White House deals with its own outbreak of COVID-19,” said Tyler Sinclair, vice president at Morning Consult.

The survey’s results come as masks have morphed into a strange political totem, taking on new ideological meaning for Americans divided over the virtue of personal sacrifice versus the value of individual liberty.

The White House was initially reluctant to endorse the wearing of masks as the disease began to spread across the U.S., with Surgeon General Jerome Adams especially skeptical of their effectiveness.

But in late March, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, revealed the White House coronavirus task force was seriously considering mask-wearing guidance, and by early April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began encouraging the use of cloth masks when outside the home.

Trump, however, acknowledged he would not be following his own administration’s recommendations. “Somehow, sitting in the Oval Office behind that beautiful Resolute Desk — the great Resolute Desk — I think wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens, I don’t know. It somehow — I don’t see it for myself,” he said.

But as the outbreak worsened and public pressure to wear masks mounted, Pence found himself embroiled in controversy in late April during a tour of the Mayo Clinic. The vice president had rejected the famed hospital’s policy that all visitors cover their faces, and conceded days later that “I should have worn a mask.”

Trump was also criticized last week when he visited a Honeywell factory in Phoenix manufacturing N95 face masks for health care workers but did not wear a mask during his tour.

The personal protective measures of White House officials have come under even greater scrutiny in recent days since one of Trump’s valets and Katie Miller, Pence’s press secretary and the wife of White House adviser Stephen Miller, tested positive for the coronavirus — heightening the risk of infection within the president’s inner circle.

Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, entered 14 days of self-quarantine after exposure to Miller, and Fauci and CDC Director Robert Redfield also disclosed plans to isolate over the next two weeks after “low-risk” contact with an infected person.

On Monday, the White House Management Office issued a memo requiring West Wing staffers to wear masks or other face coverings at all times in the building, except at their own desks. And at a Rose Garden briefing on testing later that afternoon, every seated White House staffer could be seen wearing a mask — including the president’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

The POLITICO/Morning Consult poll was conducted May 8-10, surveying a national sample of 1,994 registered voters. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2 percentage points.