French ‘anti-maskers’ most likely to be educated women in 50s, says study | World news

An anti-mask protest at the Place de la Nation in Paris where hundreds of demonstrators chanted ‘liberté, liberté’. Photograph: Kamil Zihnioglu/AP

French people who reject mask-wearing are more likely to be older, educated women who support the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) protest movement and the controversial virus specialist Didier Raoult, and would refuse to have a coronavirus vaccination if one were available, according to a new study.

They also describe themselves as free-thinkers who believe the government is meddling too much in their lives, have a distrust of public institutions and often support conspiracy theories, it found.

The French thinktank the Jean-Jaurès Foundation suggested “anti-maskers” were spread across the political spectrum, with the research results showing a slight tendency towards the right.

Antoine Bristielle, a social sciences professor who carried out the study, said he examined a number of Facebook anti-mask groups and that his findings were based on just over 1,000 responses to an online questionnaire.

The findings come after a demonstration in Paris by anti-maskers at the end of August at which hundreds of protesters chanted “liberté, liberté”. It is mandatory to wear a mask outside across the French capital.

Bristielle said four main objections to masks emerged from the respondents: that they are useless in preventing Covid-19 contamination; that they are dangerous because they cause breathing difficulties and are a “hive of bacteria”; that the epidemic is over or never existed and the governments have lied to the people; and that masks are being used to subjugate the people.

“While these four arguments methodically clash with the body of scientific facts,” the study says, “they nevertheless already say a great deal about the profile of the individuals who argue them: distrust of institutions, refusal of constraints, belief in conspiracy theories.”

Researchers found anti-maskers were likely to reject the political “elite” and traditional political parties and have more faith in the ordinary people to make decisions. In the first round of the 2017 presidential election, which resulted in a second round run-off between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, a total of 40% of those who are against masks either abstained, spoiled their ballot paper or were not even on the electoral register. Of those anti-maskers who did vote, 20% voted for the hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon and 27% for the far right’s Le Pen.

Above all, those who reject the enforced wearing of masks consider themselves free thinkers and 87% said society works better when people are responsible for their own lives, and 95% declared the government meddles too much in their daily existence.

Asked a series of questions about popular conspiracy theories, 90% of anti-maskers said the health ministry was in league with ”big pharma” to hide the poisonous effect of vaccines, 52% thought Princess Diana, who died in a car crash in Paris in 1997, had been assassinated, 56% signed up to the far-right conspiracy “replacement” theory and 57% believed there was a worldwide Zionist plot.

The study found 63% of those quizzed who were anti-mask were women, the average age was 50, and most had been in higher education. Only 2% had confidence in Emmanuel Macron and 3% in the prime minister, Jean Castex, and 94% said they would refuse to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. Most said they obtained their information from the internet and 51% said they trusted this information; 22% said they had taken part in gilets jaunes protests and 57% said they supported the movement.

Raoult, a controversial infectious diseases expert from Marseille, was well regarded by 87% of those asked who opposed masks, and almost all of them (98%) said patients infected with Covid-19 should be allowed to be treated with hydroxychloroquine as Raoult has suggested, despite claims the treatment could be dangerous.

Originally published: 2020-09-07 09:09:42

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