Showdown Looms Over Vacated Mask Mandate

Philip Wegmann, RealClearPolitics

In the debate about whether or not the federal government should make airplane passengers wear face masks, the White House is blind. But then again, everyone is blind.

“Public polling does not actually show that there is a universal view of people getting rid of masks,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters as videos of jubilant passengers and flight attendants tossing their face coverings flooded the Internet. “That is not,” Psaki added, “actually what public polling shows.”

Officials from the White House would not reveal the polls that they had been reading, but RealClearPolitics did ask. They also reiterated the caveat about the fact that public health policy is based upon the results of these polls. Public healthNot public opinion surveys. White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain did seem to endorse one survey though: He retweeted an online YouGov Poll that showed 63% of Americans in support of a travel mask mandate.

However, that YouGov survey was taken on April 18. That’s the same date that a Florida federal court ruled health officials were out of their rights when they required that everyone over 2 years old, including children, wear a mask while traveling between states on an airplane. The polls mentioned in the subsequent arguments are all older than that. Morning Consult, Associated Press, and Morning Consult are the two leading sources.

RELATED : 21 States join Lawsuit to End the Federal Mask Mandat on Airplanes, Public Transportation

The AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research released a survey showing that 56% of Americans favor requiring people on planes, trains, and public transportation to wear masks. The survey also found 24% were against the mandates while 20% were neutral. The AP poll was conducted from last Thursday up until the Monday decision, meaning that it didn’t capture public opinion after the mandate was nixed.

A Morning Consult/Politico survey similarly reported that most voters were on board with keeping the mandate for travel in place through early May: 59% supported it while 33% opposed it and 8% had no opinion. However, it was conducted on the weekend prior to the decision being dropped.

Journalists reported on these two polls, and dutifully noted when they occurred. These headlines soon became irrelevant as viral videos emerged of flight attendants and overjoyed passengers. Frank Luntz, a prominent Republican pollster says that the pre-decision polling Psaki was talking about in his briefing room is now lost and there’s no turning back.

“There is still a strong commitment to safety among a meaningful, measurable percentage of the country,” Luntz told RCP. “That said, the moment that the masks come off, everything changes.” Stuff the mask in a pocket, and suddenly “you start to think of what you hated about it, rather than why you’re wearing it. You think about the negatives of it, rather than the rationale for it.”

While the Biden administration encourages travelers to cover up while traveling, U.S. Vivek Murthy, Surgeon General of India posted an extensive thread on Thursday explaining why he continues to wear one. “Bottom line: wearing a mask while traveling is a small step that can go a long way to protecting ourselves and others,” Murthy concluded. The doctor described masking, however, as “a choice.”

Reported by: Liberals Experience an Epic Meltdown after Trump-Appointed Judge Removes the Airplane Mask Mandat

Joe Biden was also there. On the tarmac in New Hampshire on Tuesday, the president told reporters that, for passengers, the decision to wear or not wear a mask “is up to them.”

His Justice Department announced, however, that the Department would appeal that decision on the same day, but at the request from the Centers for Disease Control.

“It is CDC’s continuing assessment that at this time an order requiring masking in the indoor transportation corridor remains necessary for the public health,” the CDC said in a statement Wednesday. “CDC believes this is a lawful order, well within CDC’s legal authority to protect public health.”

While this is going on in courts, the public’s opinion may be changing. “I have no doubt that the mood today would be different than 72 hours ago,” Luntz said, previewing what he expects future polling will reveal. These are good news for the airlines. Many of the major carriers including American, Delta, and Southwest Airlines were pleading with the administration to rescind the mandate given the advances in vaccination rates as well as the many treatments and therapies now available.

Luntz proposed that these airlines use masks to designate high-frequency flights, like flights from New York City to Washington, D.C. There is a demand for that kind of service, Luntz said, albeit from “a minority in the population.”

Many Democrats were able to conceal their identities, particularly those who faced difficult elections. This included Florida’s Democratic Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried who is challenging Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. With a Twitter selfie, she celebrated Tuesday’s end to the mask mandate. Fried then spent the following hours responding to criticisms from the left.

It first tweet was exuberant: “Peace out to the TSA mask mandate, but also peace and respect to others, whether wearing a mask or not.” The second, defensive: “I’ll read all your takes, but the mandates are dropped, vaccines are working, things are getting back to normal, and it’s okay for a Democrat to say it – because we made it possible. I love y’all.”

RELATED: Biden Administration Will Fight To Keep Mask Mandate For Planes, Trains And Airports

White House officials say they will make decisions regarding the pandemic’s lingering effects based not on polls but public health data. However, Psaki’s and other polls are only a glimpse of the moment and are quickly approaching the midterm elections.

“If the DOJ is successful, it will absolutely destroy Democrats in the fall, even if there are solid health reasons,” Luntz said. “If you go back now, it won’t be the Justice Department or the CDC that’s punished. Biden, Democrats will get the punishment. They ought to leave well enough alone at this point.”

Real Clear Wire granted permission to syndicate.

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