According to a statewide survey conducted in late November, a majority of Alaskans support mask-wearing and believe in the science behind the practice.
The public opinion survey was conducted over two days by Dittman Research of Anchorage in collaboration with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. It included more than 400 Alaskans who were asked a wide range of questions related to COVID-19, the state’s response to the virus and how they had personally been affected by the pandemic.
State and national health officials have long encouraged mask-wearing as an important virus mitigation tool, citing the latest research that suggests facial coverings can protect the wearer as well as those they come into contact with from contracting COVID-19.
Their messaging appeared to be working: More than 80% of respondents reported wearing a mask “most” or “all” of the time when around people outside of their household.
On whether mask-wearing should be mandated, the results were more varied.
Three-quarters of respondents said they believed mask-wearing was an effective way of reducing the spread of COVID-19, but just half said they thought Gov. Mike Dunleavy should impose a statewide mask mandate.
One-quarter said they thought there should be no mask mandates in Alaska at all, and another quarter felt that it should be up to local communities to decide whether to impose one.
The topic of whether to require masks has been hotly debated around the state: Palmer recently rejected a proposed mask mandate after three long hearings, 18 hours of testimony and 700 public comments.
About 40 Alaska communities have mask mandates, according to an informal survey by the Alaska Municipal League. Anchorage is one of them. Seward passed a new mask mandate in November while several governments decided against them, including Ketchikan and Sitka over the summer.
Dunleavy has repeatedly said that he supports local communities enacting their own mask mandates and he won’t implement a statewide mandate.
The survey also found that just over half of Alaskans supported temporary government shutdowns of local businesses aimed at slowing virus spread, while a third “strongly” opposed such measures.
Anchorage is currently under a modified “hunker down” order through the end of the month and the Assembly and administration have received criticism for emergency orders that have placed a particular burden on the municipality’s hospitality industry.
Other survey findings
• Most (82%) said they knew someone — including themselves — who had been infected with the virus.
• Most (82%) said they believed it was important to make lifestyle changes to avoid catching or spreading the virus.
• Two-thirds said they trusted the advice given by state health officials.
• Less than half (41%) said they trusted the media to give them accurate information about the virus.
• Nearly all (89%) felt the virus had been politicized.
• A majority (64%) said they would likely get vaccinated when a COVID-19 vaccine became available.
• A majority (58%) supported children returning to in-person instruction.