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A majority of voters are uncomfortable attending large gatherings, dining out

As states continue to ease restrictions, Americans remain wary about the pandemic's spread according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
Image: Airline passenger
A passenger wears a mask while boarding a United Airlines flight at George Bush Intercontinental Airport, in Houston on May 24, 2020.David J. Phillip / AP file

WASHINGTON — Two-thirds of American voters say they would not feel comfortable flying on a plane or attending a large gathering due to continued worry about the spread of the coronavirus, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds. Half of all voters are also uneasy about dining at restaurants, and half of parents say they are uncomfortable sending their children back to school or daycare in August.

The vast majority of voters — more than eight in 10 — also say they wear a protective mask at least sometimes when they shop, go to work or interact with others outside their home. More than six in 10 say they always wear a mask in those situations.

The survey, which was conducted as many states eased some restrictions on businesses designed to blunt the virus's spread, found that 66 percent of Americans say they are uncomfortable attending a public gathering or an event with a large group, with 43 percent saying they are “very” uncomfortable. Just 17 percent say they would be “very comfortable” at a large event.

That finding comes as most major American cities have seen mass outdoor demonstrations for racial justice, and also as GOP officials are scrambling to meet President Donald Trump’s desire for an in-person political convention with thousands of attendees.

The same share of voters, 66 percent, also say they would be uncomfortable flying on an airplane in light of the continued pandemic, with 44 percent saying they would be “very” uncomfortable.

As the hospitality and food service industry face some of the worst economic consequences of the outbreak, half of voters still express concern about dining out. Just 24 percent say they feel “very” comfortable eating at a restaurant, and a combined 54 percent are either somewhat uncomfortable (25 percent) or very uncomfortable (29 percent).

The data looks much the same when it comes to apprehension from parents about sending their children back to school or daycare in August. Just 25 percent of voters who have a child under 18 in the home say they are “very” comfortable sending their children back to school, while a combined 50 percent are either somewhat uncomfortable (20 percent) or very uncomfortable (30 percent).

While the president has resisted wearing a face mask in public — which CDC guidelines recommend in order to limit transmission of the coronavirus — voters overwhelmingly say they are wearing masks at least sometimes when they leave their homes.

A majority — 63 percent — say they always wear a mask when shopping, going to work or interacting with other people in public. Another 21 percent say they sometimes wear a mask. Seven percent say they wear a mask “rarely” and just eight percent say they never wear one.

But despite generally widespread mask-wearing, Republicans are more likely to follow Trump’s lead by expressing reluctance to donning protective masks.

Among the 15 percent of adults who say they rarely or never wear a mask, 83 percent plan to support Trump over Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential contest. Among those who say they always wear a mask in public, 66 percent choose Biden over Trump.

Worries about resuming regular public activities are also split along the same partisan lines. While 84 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of independents say they are somewhat or very uncomfortable attending a large gathering, just 44 percent of Republicans say the same.

The NBC News/Wall Street Journal live-caller phone poll was conducted May 28-June 2, 2020. The margin of error for 1000 interviews among registered voters is +/- 3.1 percentage points.