On COVID-19 vaccine, mask requirements, Americans prioritize common good over personal liberty

New USA Today/Ipsos poll: Majority say unvaccinated Americans should face some type of consequence for not getting the shot

The author(s)

  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Mallory Newall Vice President, US, Public Affairs
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Washington, DC, August 22, 2021

Are COVID-19 vaccine requirements an infringement on personal liberty, or an important step in protecting the common good? A new USA Today/Ipsos poll finds that more than three in five Americans believe protecting the common good is more important than preserving personal liberties in this specific instance, and that means individuals can be required to get the vaccine, absent a medical or religions exemption. Even more, nearly three-quarters, say mask requirements are an important way to protect the common good, and a matter of health and safety. While a majority acknowledge people have the right to not get vaccinated, most are also in favor of certain actions taken against the unvaccinated, such as barring them from bars or restaurants, traveling via airplane or mass transit, or attending large events.

Detailed Findings

1. In general, Americans prioritize protecting the common good over protecting personal liberties. A majority agree that vaccine requirements and mask requirements are a way to protect the common good.

  • Overall, 73% say protecting the common good is more important, even if that means requiring some people to do things they don’t want to do. On the other hand, 27% say protecting personal liberty is more important, even if it does result in other people getting hurt.
  • A majority, though slightly fewer, agree with this premise when it is specifically applied to COVID-19 vaccine requirements. Sixty-one percent believe protecting the common good is more important than protecting personal liberty, and that means individuals can be required to get the vaccine.
  • However, there are significant differences by partisan affiliation. Most Republicans (62%) say protecting personal liberty is more important, while the vast majority of Democrats (78%) and Independents (62%) say protecting the common good, specifically through vaccine requirements, is important.
  • A larger majority, 75%, agree that getting the vaccine is less about protecting the individual, and more about stopping the continued spread of COVID.

2. Most believe unvaccinated people should have to face some penalties when it comes to recreational activities. And seven in ten say while people have a right to not get vaccinated, they should not expect to be around those who have received the vaccine.

  • Seventy percent agree that, “People have a right to not get the vaccine, but should not expect to be able to be around the vaccinated if they don't.”
  • Two-thirds believe businesses have the right to refuse service to the unvaccinated, and 71% say colleges have a right to require their students to be vaccinated to return to campus.
  • When it comes to taking specific actions against people who are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine but do not get one, most support barring them from large-scale events like concerts (65%), traveling via airplane or mass transit (65%), or patronizing restaurants/bars (59%).  Fewer than half support firing someone from their job (38%) or saying that they should face no consequences (46%).

3. There is widespread, often bipartisan, support for various transportation, citizenship, economic, and healthcare mandates. In comparison, COVID vaccine requirements are more polarizing, and less supported overall.

  • This poll sought to measure other policies in place that are generally seen as protecting the “common good,” such as mandatory seat belt laws, requiring drivers to have a license, and putting in place certain building standards and codes. The percentage of Americans who support these policies generally ranges from the mid-70s to high 80s.
  • Even 80% of Americans support requiring children to get vaccinated against a range of diseases (such as measles, diphtheria, tetanus, or chickenpox) before they can attend school. There is bipartisan agreement on this (77% of Republicans and 88% of Democrats agree).
  • However, support is lower for businesses requiring employees to get the COVID vaccine (62%) and state and local governments requiring the use of masks or face coverings (66%). Fewer than half of Republicans support these policies, making them one of the few partisan policies tested in the survey.

About the Study 

These are the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between August 17-18, 2021. For this survey, a sample of 1,088 adults age 18+ from the continental U.S., Alaska, and Hawaii was interviewed online in English. The sample includes 350 Republicans, 526 Democrats, and 139 Independents.

The sample was randomly drawn from Ipsos’ online panel, partner online panel sources, and “river” sampling and does not rely on a population frame in the traditional sense. Ipsos uses fixed sample targets, unique to each study, in drawing a sample. After a sample has been obtained from the Ipsos panel, Ipsos calibrates respondent characteristics to be representative of the U.S. Population using standard procedures such as raking-ratio adjustments. The source of these population targets is U.S. Census 2018 American Community Survey data. The sample drawn for this study reflects fixed sample targets on demographics. Posthoc weights were made to the population characteristics on gender, age, race/ethnicity, region, and education. 

Statistical margins of error are not applicable to online non-probability polls. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error and measurement error. Where figures do not sum to 100, this is due to the effects of rounding. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points for all respondents. Ipsos calculates a design effect (DEFF) for each study based on the variation of the weights, following the formula of Kish (1965). This study had a credibility interval adjusted for design effect of the following (n=1,088, DEFF=1.5, adjusted Confidence Interval=+/-4.9 percentage points).

For more information on this news release, please contact:

Chris Jackson

Senior Vice President, US

Public Affairs

+1 202 420-2025

[email protected]

Mallory Newall 
Vice President, US   
Public Affairs   
+1 202 420-2014   
[email protected] 

Kate Silverstein

Media Relations Specialist, US

Public Affairs

+1 718 755-8829

[email protected]

About Ipsos 

Ipsos is the world’s third largest Insights and Analytics company, present in 90 markets and employing more than 18,000 people.

Our passionately curious research professionals, analysts and scientists have built unique multi-specialist capabilities that provide true understanding and powerful insights into the actions, opinions and motivations of citizens, consumers, patients, customers or employees. We serve more than 5000 clients across the world with 75 business solutions.

Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos is listed on the Euronext Paris since July 1st, 1999. The company is part of the SBF 120 and the Mid-60 index and is eligible for the Deferred Settlement Service (SRD).

ISIN code FR0000073298, Reuters ISOS.PA, Bloomberg IPS:FP www.ipsos.com


The author(s)

  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Mallory Newall Vice President, US, Public Affairs