Public Policy & Politics

Araya Schroder, Photography Editor

Since 2020, our economy, our society and our lives have been interrupted by COVID-19. For years now, the world has been battling this virus and taking precautions to avoid testing positive. Today, the world is fighting the same virus but has never been more divided among the people. Different ideas on how to fight the pandemic has created disputes among communities, families, and especially, members of opposing political parties.

One approach to combating the virus that had politicians debating on both the state and national level was whether to mandate masks or not.

Lancaster county, as well as a number of other counties in Nebraska, kept the mask mandate in place through 2021, with a short break during the summer, and into part of 2022.   One trend that can be seen is that certain political groups seem to favor one side– being pro or against mask wearing, or even vaccines. 

According to a 2020 survey of 1,057 adults conducted by the Center for Public Affairs Research, 75 percent were in favor of masks, 13 percent opposed and 11 percent said they neither favored or opposed masks. Out of those surveyed who identify as Democrat, 89 percent were in favor, 3 percent were opposed and 8 percent claimed neither. For the Republicans, 58 percent favored, 27 percent opposed and 15 percent were neither.

At Lincoln Southeast High School (LSE), 138 students took a survey asking about their thoughts on masks and how that related to their political beliefs. 

Young Democrats Club President Nick Herbin (11), who supported the mask mandates, thinks that being knowledgeable about public policies can help students make good decisions when it comes to voting.    

“I think we need to do whatever protects people, and if that means wearing a piece of cloth over our face, then we should do that,” Herbin said. “You’re doing it to protect other people. And that’s not political.” 

Herbin believes that all citizens in an organized society should adhere to a social contract in order for that society to function effectively. 

“We need to do what’s safest for people. And if that means wearing masks, then that’s not bad. We obey the traffic laws. It’s the same thing here,” Herbin said.

Leo Adams (11), who identifies as an Independent, said that masks should be worn to protect not only yourself, but also those who have health problems.

“I believe that if you are to wear a mask, you are benefiting society in the fact that you are helping to gain immunity,” Adams said. “It’s helpful to wear a mask when you’re around other people, even if you know they’re vaccinated.” 

Although Leo believes that everyone should wear a mask, he is unsure whether he supports enforcing it by law.

“At the same time, I do think that if you don’t want to wear a mask, I can’t stop you from running unmasked,” Adams said. “I agree with the mandates, and I think it’s a good idea. But I also don’t like the idea of controlling somebody’s actions.”

Nathan Johnson (11), Young Republican Club President, outlines how masks have become political and how that impacts his views upon masks.

 “I feel like health and safety is different from politics. But it’s turned into a political thing, which isn’t great,” he said. 

Johnson said that he was a proponent of mask-wearing at the beginning of COVID-19, but his views on mask mandate have changed somewhat now that there are vaccines. 

“Now, having a vaccine, I’m more comfortable and definitely a lot less supportive of needing to wear a mask. But really, I think it comes down to whether you can do what you want,” Johnson said.