1 in 4 Canadians never wear a mask but making it mandatory finds little resistance

Bruce Anderson

Bruce Anderson

Last week in a national survey of 1,500 Canadian adults we asked some questions about wearing masks as a way to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Here’s what we found:

A third of Canadians always wear a mask when they enter a public place like a retail outlet and a quarter never do.

Men are significantly less likely to wear masks compared to women. Mask wearing is more common among the youngest and older adults, and resistance to wearing masks is highest among those in the 45-59 age group.

Mask wearing is most common in Ontario and least common in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Atlantic Canada. 40% of rural-dwelling Canadians never wear a mask. Conservative voters are about 9 to 10 percentage points more likely than Liberals and New Democrats to say they never wear a mask.

Six in ten (60%) would prefer that mask-wearing “in an indoor area where there are other people, such as a retail store” should be mandatory, while 31% prefer that it be left up to individual choice. The preference for a mandatory approach is highest in Ontario (71%) while opinion is equally divided in Atlantic Canada and a majority in Saskatchewan and Manitoba prefer mask-wearing to be left up to the individual.

If governments decide to make mask-wearing mandatory, there would be little opposition, however. Only 14% would oppose such a move, while 62% would support it and another 24% would go along with it. Across party lines, only 24% of Conservatives, 9% of Liberals and 5% of New Democrats would be against such laws/regulations.

Regionally, a majority support making mask-wearing mandatory in all regions or provinces, except in Manitoba or Saskatchewan although more than 80% would support or go along with the policy if it was implemented. In the Greater Toronto Area, 71% support making mask-wearing mandatory.


Mask wearing is common but far from universal in Canada. However, hesitation to use masks seems more a function of where one lives, social conditioning, and population density than a philosophical or political barrier.

While there is some variation along partisan lines, it would be an exaggeration to see these differences as implying a deep political culture divide – while 42% of Conservatives prefer a personal choice over a mandatory approach, actual opposition to mandated masks is only about a quarter of Conservatives.


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The survey was conducted with 1,500 Canadian residents from June 26 t0 30, 2020. A random sample of panelists were invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform. These partners are typically double opt-in survey panels, blended to manage out potential skews in the data from a single source.

The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 2.8%, 19 times out of 20.

The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

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