How people are talking about COVID-19 Mandates

Over the past year, the conversations surrounding masks, vaccines, and other COVID-related restrictions have been at the forefront of public discourse. Between December 18th, 2020 and December 17th, 2021, there were more than 370 million mentions of vaccine- and mask-related terms on Twitter. 

Ideas about the government’s role in managing the pandemic have divided us; people on the left generally favor mask and vaccine mandates to ensure the safety of the community, while people on the right generally support the individual’s right to determine what is best for them and their community.

The bottom line: Divisions around COVID-19 policy stem from differences in opinion about risks associated with COVID-19, risks associated with the vaccine, and the role the government should play in developing and/or enforcing public health policies.

What each side thinks of COVID-19 mandates

Note: There are more than two sides to this issue, and many people will likely fall somewhere in between these two positions. We use the left/right dynamic to illustrate how and why we disagree on this issue, not to suggest those are the only opinions that exist.

To many on the left, getting the vaccine is a patriotic act which shows commitment to the safety of the community. Since experts on the topic have verified that the vaccines are safe, everyone should get a shot to make sure we protect vulnerable people who may be unable to get vaccinated. Mandates should be enforced where needed to ensure everyone stays safe.

See these top tweets from the left:

@AndrewShuk2112, @AkilahObviously, and @JoeBiden.

To many on the right, everyone who wants to get the vaccine should have the opportunity to do so, but the individual, not the government, should ultimately be the one to decide what’s best for them. The individual’s right to determine whether or not they want to get vaccinated is especially important given the short timeframe for the development of the vaccines, leaving many unanswered questions about their long-term effects. Further, the federal government has been heavy handed when it comes to COVID restrictions, using the pandemic as an excuse to unduly influence people’s lives.

See these top tweets from the right:

@GregAbbott_TX, @mommajessiec, and @NickiMinaj.

Coexisting despite our differences

So how do we protect our communities while safeguarding individual liberties? We all answer this question differently based on what we see as the biggest threat: the virus, the erosion of civil liberties, or some combination of the two.

We don’t claim to be able to solve this dilemma, as both are laudable goals and, as pluralists, we respect that different people will come to different conclusions about it. However, it’s critical to carefully consider this duality before declaring the other side brainwashed, stupid, or evil. Both the left and the right are interested in minimizing death and disease, but their vision for how to do so differs based on what matters most to them.

Recognizing this won’t resolve the debate around COVID mandates, but it can help us have better, more productive conversations with our contra partisans about how to address the pandemic.