- Wearing facewear has become a focus between conservatives and liberals in the United States.
- Insider asked two social psychologists to explain the phenomenon. Both blamed an extremely partisan political environment and ongoing anti-mask news from President Trump for the problem.
- They also compared it to the climate change debate, which did not begin as a political issue in the 1990s but has since become very partisan as the Republicans have included it on their agenda.
- "It is simply not healthy for the country to be split in this way," said one of the experts.
- You can find more stories on the Business Insider homepage.
Wearing face coverings to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus has become an undisputed focus in the United States.
People were thrown out of airplanes and have started fighting about her refusal to wear masks. A Starbucks barista was embarrassed on Facebook and a Waffle house worker was shot for refusing to serve people who did not follow mask mandates.
This face-cover political divide, recommended by experts around the world, appears to be most pronounced in the United States, where liberals tend to follow face mask instructions and conservatives tend to reject them.
A survey from the Pew Research Center, released in late June, showed that 63% of Democrats and Democratic Independent thinks face masks should be worn in public at all times, compared to only 29% of Republicans and Republicans.
Insider spoke to two social psychologists who said the problem was due to the polarized political climate in America and the anti-mask news from President Donald Trump, who until recently refused to wear one.
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Q3PSISAZL8 (/ embed)
"We are in this area in the US where the two sides really hate each other, and that extends to information. So it's not just" I don't like you ". It's" I like. " your values not, I don't like your facts, "Pete Ditto, professor of psychology at the University of California at Irvine, told Insider.
"You really don't see these levels of polarization in other countries," he added.
Using Trump's example
A party political climate isn't the only factor that makes face masks such a hot topic, said Eric Knowles, an associate psychology professor at New York University.
Republican and democratic leaders have shaped Americans' views on face masks through their explicit statements and actions throughout the pandemic, he said.
"Trump and the Republicans have downplayed the severity of the pandemic, and therefore the importance of wearing masks, while democratic politicians have – perhaps appropriately – outplayed the dangers and the importance of health behavior," Knowles said.
Another key factor in the gap between face masks, according to Ditto, is the fact that no one likes to wear them at all.
"You can take this aversion to wearing masks and arm them in a way and tell people it's bad, and that's exactly what happened," said Ditto.
"They have a site that for many complicated reasons wants to believe that this pandemic is not very serious. They don't want it to interfere with their lives, so they decided that these masks are bad – and not just that they are bad but that they don't work, "he said.
Both psychologists compared the focus on face masks to the debate on climate change, which they felt was not a very political issue when it was first discussed in depth in the 1990s.
"It was not a polarized political issue until the Republicans started using it as a wedge and linking their political agenda to downplaying climate change," Knowles said of the climate change debate.
The problem with the face mask is "a repetition of this process of accepting something that is a common challenge that we all have to face. We all have to unite and deal with it and see it become increasingly politicized," Knowles said.
But Trump has the power to make people wear masks
Knowles said he was confident that Trump's sudden support for face masks could have a positive impact on mask wear across the country. Indeed, the President's re-election campaign emailed Monday night informing supporters that wearing masks "is something we should all try". according to CNN.
"I tentatively assume that if Trump can stay up to date and consistently express the importance of wearing masks in public, the partisan discrepancy will decrease," he said.
The same is not so optimistic.
"There is a long history of studies in social psychology to suggest that some kind of external threat brings people together," he said.
"We can fight and fight and fight when the stakes are low, but when there is a serious threat, we contract."
"So everyone hoped people would get together when the threat got so bad," said Ditto. "But that just doesn't seem to happen."
The gap may only worsen if the election becomes apparent
Shortly before the presidential elections in November, Ditto expects the partisans to split even more when wearing masks.
"It is simply not healthy for the country to be split in this way," said Ditto. "A medical threat is a good example of something that shouldn't be politicized, but once it gets into this funnel, it becomes politicized."
Regardless of politics, people's refusal to wear face masks is likely to cost more American lives. The United States has registered the largest number of coronavirus cases and deaths worldwide, and the number of victims is expected to continue to increase.