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More than three-quarters of Montanans are wearing face masks, avoiding crowded public places and practicing social distancing in response to the coronavirus, according to a survey conducted by the University of Chicago in late May and early June. Responses were collected from 257 adult Montanans, giving the poll an 8.4 percentage point margin of error.

The survey, part of an ongoing effort to assess how the pandemic is affecting Americans, also recorded 41% of respondents indicating that their personal plans had changed as a result of domestic travel restrictions.

Heavy majorities of Montanans reported keeping six feet of distance from people outside their household (81%), wearing a face mask (78%), avoiding public or crowded places (76%), putting off social activities (72%) and avoiding some or all restaurants (67%).

The poll didn’t ask respondents to provide details on the situations in which they do or don’t use face masks or how consistently they are wearing masks in public. A prior survey by the COVID-19 Consortium, conducted in the second half of May, had 30% of Montana respondents report adhering “very closely” to health guidelines that they wear a face mask when outside the home, with another 29% reporting that they were adhering “somewhat closely.”

While the figure for self-reported mask-wearing is up substantially since late April, when 62% of Montanans reported taking the precaution, it still lags the national figure of 90%.

Fewer Montanans reported praying (48%), wiping down packages entering their homes (32%), or working from home (30%) in response to the coronavirus.

Research based on prior rounds of the survey administered in April, included in briefing materials distributed to some Montana lawmakers this week, indicated that 6 in 10 Montanans reported wearing masks, compared to 8 in 10 survey respondents nationally. 

That research also reported that as of April and May, the percentage of Montanans working for pay had fallen 13 percentage points relative to the pre-COVID level, and that the average number of hours worked by employed Montanans had declined by 9%.

The latest round of the survey was conducted between May 30 and June 8 for the Data Foundation by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center. Research funders include the Associated Press and the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

Respondents were selected from a stratified random sample of households drawn from the U.S. Postal Service’s delivery route database, which means rural residents who only have P.O. boxes were excluded.

Full survey results and detailed methodology information are available at covid-impact.org.

This story was updated June 29, 2020 to include reference to the COVID-10 Consortium study.

Eric Dietrich is a journalist and data designer and the founder of the Long Streets economic reporting project. His reporting focuses broadly on Montana’s governance and economic opportunity, with particular focus on the state budget and tax policy. He also contributes data reporting across the MTFP newsroom. Before joining the MTFP staff in 2019, he worked for the Great Falls Tribune, Bozeman Daily Chronicle, and Solutions Journalism Network and also earned an engineering degree from Montana State University. Contact Eric at edietrich@montanafreepress.org, 406-465-3386 ext. 2, and follow him on Twitter.