Reason Roundup

Americans Are Souring on Mask Mandates and Warrantless Surveillance: Poll

Plus: Tipped minimum wage kills jobs, how the U.S. "helped" out women in rural Afghanistan, and more...


The share of Americans who support mask mandates is down 20 percentage points since last December, according to a new Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll. A slight majority still favor mandates, with 17 percent saying they somewhat support them and 38 professing strong support. But this is down from an overwhelming majority of 75 percent support in December 2020.

Meanwhile, the percentage of poll respondents who are somewhat or strongly opposed climbed 15 percent to 27 percent, with 17 percent now strongly opposed. Some 18 percent of respondents now and 11 percent then said they neither favor nor oppose mask mandates.

The poll question does not specify whether it's referring to government-imposed mask mandates or mask mandates by private businesses.

The A.P.-NORC poll—conducted August 12–16 among 1,729 adults, with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points—contains a lot of interesting information about attitudes toward pandemic response and other issues.

According to the poll, Americans have also soured on warrantless surveillance and war on terror measures.

"In particular, 46% of Americans say they oppose the U.S. government responding to threats against the nation by reading emails sent between people outside of the U.S. without a warrant," notes A.P. "That's compared to just 27% who are in favor. In an AP-NORC poll conducted one decade ago, more favored than opposed the practice, 47% to 30%."

And a majority now oppose government listening without a warrant to telephone calls made outside the U.S. or the "monitoring without a warrant of searches on the internet, including those by U.S. citizens, to watch for suspicious activities." In the latest poll, 50 percent opposed the latter and 44 percent opposed the former—up from 37 percent opposition to warrantless search surveillance and 34 percent opposition to warrantless phone call surveillance in a summer 2011 poll.

People are also less enthusiastic about racial and ethnic profiling at the airport (61 percent now opposed, up from 53 percent) and about "random searches involving full-body scans or pat downs of people boarding commercial airlines flights"—though opposition to the latter remains disturbingly low (30 percent now opposed, up from 21 percent).

But not all sorts of government spying have become less popular. Slightly more people now than a decade ago support the installation of surveillance cameras in public places (18 percent opposed, down from 20 percent), and support for government listening to calls made in the U.S. is about on par (with opposition at 66 percent now and 65 percent then).

You can find the full results here.


A devastating look at how the U.S. "helped" out women in Afghanistan. "In the countryside, the endless killing of civilians turned women against the occupiers who claimed to be helping them," reports The New Yorker in a fascinating and heartbreaking long read.

The story follows Shakira, a woman living in rural Afghanistan, and her experiences with Soviet rule, the Mujahedeen, the Taliban, and occupying U.S. forces. All had their downsides for rural Afghan women and families—with American and allied troops perhaps causing the most damage. At times, American authorities deputized and supported the very local forces that had been terrorizing them. The murder of civilians—Shakira's family members—were common:

In this way, Shakira's tragedies mounted. There was Muhammad, a fifteen-year-old cousin: he was killed by a buzzbuzzak, a drone, while riding his motorcycle through the village with a friend. "That sound was everywhere," Shakira recalled. "When we heard it, the children would start to cry, and I could not console them."

Muhammad Wali, an adult cousin: Villagers were instructed by coalition forces to stay indoors for three days as they conducted an operation, but after the second day drinking water had been depleted and Wali was forced to venture out. He was shot. …

Niamatullah, Ahmed's brother: He was harvesting opium when a firefight broke out nearby; as he tried to flee, he was gunned down by a buzzbuzzak.

Gul Ahmed, an uncle of Shakira's husband: He wanted to get a head start on his day, so he asked his sons to bring his breakfast to the fields. When they arrived, they found his body. Witnesses said that he'd encountered a coalition patrol. The soldiers "left him here, like an animal," Shakira said.

Entire branches of Shakira's family tree, from the uncles who used to tell her stories to the cousins who played with her in the caves, vanished. In all, she lost sixteen family members. I wondered if it was the same for other families in Pan Killay. I sampled a dozen households at random in the village, and made similar inquiries in other villages, to insure that Pan Killay was no outlier. For each family, I documented the names of the dead, cross-checking cases with death certificates and eyewitness testimony. On average, I found, each family lost ten to twelve civilians in what locals call the American War.

This scale of suffering was unknown in a bustling metropolis like Kabul, where citizens enjoyed relative security. But in countryside enclaves like Sangin the ceaseless killings of civilians led many Afghans to gravitate toward the Taliban. …

Some British officers on the ground grew concerned that the U.S. was killing too many civilians, and unsuccessfully lobbied to have American Special Forces removed from the area. Instead, troops from around the world poured into Helmand, including Australians, Canadians, and Danes. But villagers couldn't tell the difference—to them, the occupiers were simply "Americans." Pazaro, the woman from a nearby village, recalled, "There were two types of people—one with black faces and one with pink faces. When we see them, we get terrified." The coalition portrayed locals as hungering for liberation from the Taliban, but a classified intelligence report from 2011 described community perceptions of coalition forces as "unfavorable," with villagers warning that, if the coalition "did not leave the area, the local nationals would be forced to evacuate."

In response, the coalition shifted to the hearts-and-minds strategy of counter-insurgency. But the foreigners' efforts to embed among the population could be crude: they often occupied houses, only further exposing villagers to crossfire.


Does raising the tipped minimum wage kills jobs? A new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests yes—a higher minimum wage for tipped workers may result in fewer tipped-wage restaurant jobs without corresponding benefits to worker earnings. "Our evidence points to higher tipped minimum wages (smaller tip credits) reducing jobs among tipped restaurant workers, without earnings effects on those who remain employed sufficiently large to raise total earnings in this sector," write study authors David Neumark & Maysen Yen. "And most of our evidence provides no indication that higher tipped minimum wages would be well targeted to poor or low-income families or reduce the likelihood of being poor or very low income." You can find the full study here.


• Johns Hopkins University data shows that "the number of Covid-19 patients in hospitals across the US this Labor Day weekend was nearly 300% higher than this time last year," reports The Guardian. And "the average number of deaths was over 86% higher than the same period last year."

• The Department of Justice is gearing up for another antitrust lawsuit against Google.

• "Half a century after the sexual revolution and the start of second-wave feminism, why are the politics of sex still so messy, fraught, and contested?" asks The Atlantic.

• South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, is tightening rules around abortion drugs through an executive order.

• How San Francisco's restrictions on chain stores may violate the First Amendment.

•Behavioral geneticist Kathryn Paige Harden "is waging a two-front campaign: on her left are those who assume that genes are irrelevant, on her right those who insist that they're everything." Is there a middle ground—and can anyone be convinced of it?

• "This movement to hold platforms accountable for their users' activities is possibly the biggest single assault on free expression in American history, and it would be naive to assume it will remain limited to attacking pornography and prostitution," writes Jerry Barnett at Quillette.

• Why the American Civil Liberties Union flip-flopped on vaccine mandates.

• Mexico's Supreme Court has ruled the country's ban on abortion unconstitutional.

• In Russia, at least 10 publications and 20 journalists have been targeted by the government since April.

• A taxonomy of cancel culture.