If you’ve traveled throughout Asia, you may have seen people wearing surgical face masks in public long before the coronavirus pandemic. Or maybe you wore one yourself. 

In Japan, for instance, wearing a face mask is a common courtesy for cough-and-cold victims who want to avoid spreading their germs. And their history of air pollution and disease has encouraged some to continue to wear masks. So when the coronavirus pandemic hit, most Japanese residents were accepting of mask-wearing.

But that was a different story for Americans. Despite thousands of scientists and doctors backing masks as a way to protect oneself against coronavirus disease, many Americans refuse to wear mandatory masks on planes, grocery stores, and public transportation

So we had to know — would any Americans wear a mask if it wasn’t mandatory?

Key takeaways

  • 26% of Americans wouldn’t wear a mask on a plane if it wasn’t required.
  • Residents of the Northeast are most likely (83%) to wear a mask in grocery stores.
  • Women are more likely to wear a mask than men.

Our data sheds light on the importance of mask enforcement in an attempt to protect passengers and shoppers. 

26% of Americans Wouldn’t Wear a Mask on a Plane During the Coronavirus Pandemic if it Wasn’t Required

The airline industry took a hit during the coronavirus pandemic—an $84 billion loss

But air travel hasn’t halted. Stateside domestic travel is still running with full flights taking off every day. Airlines have touted their commitment to passenger safety including mandatory mask-wearing, thorough cleanings, and temperature checks. And while some passengers have refused to wear a mask, only to be removed from flights, most have complied knowing it’s their only way to get from point A to point B. 

Through our survey, we found that if masks weren’t mandatory, more than one-fourth of Americans would fly mask-free. 

28% of Americans Wouldn’t Wear a Mask in a Grocery Store During the Coronavirus Pandemic if it Wasn’t Required

Grocery store workers have become crucial front-line workers during the pandemic. Not only do grocery store patrons need protection against each other, but grocery store workers, America’s essential workers, need to be protected from the coronavirus disease.

Grocery retailers have followed state-sanctioned protocols about wearing masks, but would customers wear them if it wasn’t required? Our studies showed that 72% would. 

Unsurprisingly, age played a part in wearing a mask in a grocery store, especially for the elderly — 70% of ages 18-24, 68% of ages 25-34, 71% of ages 35-44, 75% of ages 45-54, 66% of ages 55-64, and 81% of ages 65+ would still wear a mask if it wasn’t mandatory. 

Numbers show that the coronavirus disease affects older victims more, however, people of all ages have experienced complications. Regardless, those in their late teens and early twenties are less likely to wear a mask in grocery stores if it wasn’t required compared to retirees.

Location divided responses as well, with residents in the Northeast most likely to wear a mask in grocery stores. Here’s the breakdown of Americans who would wear an unmandated mask in a grocery store: West: 67%, South: 68%, Northeast: 83%, Midwest: 75%.

73% of People Would Wear a Mask on Public Transportation if it Wasn’t Required

People board public transportation 34 million times a day in the U.S. That number alone has urged government officials to enforce laws around wearing a mask on public transportation to avoid a spread at scale. 

Without that enforcement, 73% of people would wear a mask on public transportation. And as doctors have stated numerous times, it only takes one person to infect thousands of others

Women Are More Likely to Wear a Mask Than Men 

All of our survey questions led to women being more apt to wear a mask without being told than men. When we asked participants if they would wear a mask on public transportation during the coronavirus pandemic without it being mandated, 77% of women said yes, while 68% of men said the same. On a plane, 71% of men said yes versus 77% of women, and in a grocery store, 69% of men said yes compared to 74% of women. 

That supports a recent study claiming that men are less likely to wear masks than women and that many men see masks as “shameful, not cool, and a sign of weakness.”

Doctors and epidemiologists claim that masks prevent the spread of COVID-19, but as our study shows, it takes lawmakers to enforce it. 


Anyplace conducted an online survey of 1,000 Americans aged 18 and older to learn what they think about wearing masks in public. The survey consisted of 3 questions fielded in October 2020 using Google Consumer Surveys. 

a woman sitting at a table with a laptop.

Sarah Archer is a Content Marketing Manager at Anyplace who works remotely while traveling. She’s passionate about developing content and PR initiatives that help digital nomads find housing options. When she’s not working, she’s likely hiking a new trail, eating pho, or mapping out the next destination.

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