chapman university students wearing face masks
Chapman University’s 2021 Orange County Annual Survey of 703 county residents found overwhelming support for government efforts to combat the virus including the current rules on social distancing (90%) and a national mask mandate (70%)

Majority of Orange County Residents Support Mandatory Mask Mandate Nearly 75% believe the government’s response to the pandemic was just right or did not go far enough

Amy Stevens
Director of Public Relations
(714) 289-3143 office
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Orange, Calif. –Chapman University’s 2021 Orange County Annual Survey of 703 county residents found that anti-maskers and COVID-deniers do not represent the majority. Despite highly publicized protests, eighty-three percent (83%) of those surveyed said that the coronavirus is a real threat and eighty percent (80%) said it is not fully under control in Orange County.   

Researchers found overwhelming support for government efforts to combat the virus including the current rules on social distancing (90%) and a national mask mandate (70%). Seventy-three percent (73%) said government efforts to fight the virus were either about right (38%) or did not go far enough (35%) and a quarter (27%) felt that government efforts to combat the virus went too far. There was a major partisan divide among responses. 

Looking toward the future, there is a sharp partisan divide when asked about the COVID-19 vaccines and reopening schools. Eighty-one percent (81%) of Democrats versus only fifty-eight percent (58%) of Republicans said they would get vaccinated. A majority (56%) believe schools should reopen immediately provided proper precautions are taken, this breaks down to 84% of Republicans, 54% of decline-to-state voters and 31% of Democrats.

“In contrast to its reputation as the home of conservative extremists who think the threat posed by the coronavirus is over blown and that efforts to contain it are over the top, data suggest that most Orange County residents believe coronavirus is a serious threat and are supportive of government action to fight it,” said Fred Smoller, associate professor of political science at Chapman University. “However, the political polarization that exists nationally is also very present here.”

“Orange County has a long reputation as being the land of John Wayne, the Save Our State initiative, and the John Birch Society; however, the county has changed,” stated Mike Moodian, leadership studies lecturer at Chapman. “OC today is diverse both culturally and politically. Registration numbers for the two major political parties are relatively close, and the county has a significant number of independent voters. OC is increasingly looking for like the rest of the country as opposed to being an ultra-conservative outlier among coastal California counties.”

In addition to the pandemic, the survey also asked respondents questions about climate change, state and federal government and major county issues.   

Seventy-nine percent (79%) of respondents said that the threat of climate change was a serious problem and seventy percent (70%) said climate change was caused by human activities. This reaffirms the finding from the 2020 Orange County Annual Survey which focused on climate change.

Sixty-nine percent (69%) believe the 2020 presidential election was fair, but thirty-one percent (31%) do not. Sixty-seven percent (67%) of Republicans think the election was not conducted fairly, whereas ninety-seven percent (97%) of Democrats and seventy-three percent (73%) of the decline-to-state respondents feel it was fair.

People across the board say former President Donald Trump will go down in history as a less-than-average president. Twenty-six percent (26%) of Republicans said he would go down as a below average or as a poor president. The comparable figures for Democrats were ninety-one percent (91%), and decline-to-state was fifty-seven percent (57%).

President Joe Biden remains popular. Sixty-three percent (63%) of those surveyed said they approved of President Biden’s performance in office, which is higher than his national approval rating (Gallup: 57%). Respondents were cautiously optimistic about the direction of the country with 52% saying the U.S. is headed in the right direction, but less than half (43%) felt that California was headed in the right direction.

Orange County is evenly divided about removing Gavin Newsom from office before his term expires in January 2023. About half (48%) of those surveyed say the Governor should be recalled. Support for the recall is sharply divided along party lines with eighty percent (80%) of Republicans and the majority of decline-to-state respondents (53%) supporting the recall, compared to sixteen percent (16%) of Democrats.

A strong majority of county residents (65%) support the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, but there is a substantial difference between partisan affiliation. Ninety-five percent (95%) of Democrats and 73% of decline-to-state voters support BLM, compared to only 22% of Republicans.

The police are generally looked upon favorably in OC. A strong majority responded with either “Excellent” or “Good” when asked about how the police were doing in maintaining public safety, treating the community with respect, responding with the appropriate number of officers and gaining the trust of local residents. However, a majority (62%) believe the police are doing a “Fair” or “Poor” job at responding to the mental health crisis.

Join the survey directors at Chapman University’s sixth annual Public Policy Conference on April 7 entitled Fighting Climate Change. The day’s panels and events will explore the issue of and proposed solutions to climate change. Admission is free and virtual but attendance requires a reservation. More information can be found at

About Chapman University

Founded in 1861, Chapman University is a nationally-ranked private university located in Southern California. Chapman is categorized by the Carnegie Classification as an R2 “high research activity” institution and offers personalized education to more than 9,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The campus has produced a Rhodes Scholar, been named a top producer of Fulbright Scholars and hosts a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious honor society. Based in the City of Orange, Chapman also includes the Harry and Diane Rinker Health Science Campus in Irvine. In 2019, the university opened its 11th college, Fowler School of Engineering, in its newest facility, Keck Center for Science and Engineering. Learn more about Chapman University:

Amy Stevens

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