Why won’t Americans get vaccinated?

July 15, 2021, 7:15 PM GMT+0

There is a new and defining divide between Americans who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and those who claim they will reject vaccination.

There is a political component to choosing and rejecting vaccination. In the latest Economist/YouGov poll, Republicans are much more likely to reject the vaccine. More than a quarter of Republicans (29%) say they will not get vaccinated. Just 4% of Democrats say this. But there are other differences as well.

Vaccine rejection is higher among whites than it is among black and Hispanic Americans, higher in the Midwest and South than elsewhere in the country, and it is also greater among those with less education. White people with less than a college degree are more than ten points more likely than white people with a college degree to say they will not be vaccinated. Their positions may never change. There is little this group believes could make them change their minds.

People who won’t get vaccinated are worried about side effects, microchips and political motivations… but not COVID-19

Why is this? First, 90% of those who reject vaccination fear possible side effects from the vaccine more than they fear COVID-19 itself. Second, only 16% of them believe most of the new cases of COVID-19 are occurring among the unvaccinated. For the most part, they think the virus is spreading equally among the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, or they admit they just don’t know. In contrast, more than three in four of the fully vaccinated know that new infections come mostly from those who have not yet received the vaccine.

The skepticism about the threats posed by the coronavirus is clear among vaccine rejectors. While more than one in four of those fully vaccinated believe the dangers of COVID-19 were exaggerated for political reasons, three times as many vaccine rejectors say that is the case. Since most in this group (83%) have little or no worry about their risks of contracting COVID-19 (with a majority not worried at all), the belief that its dangers have been exaggerated is not surprising. Less than one in ten of the vaccine rejectors trust medical advice from Dr. Anthony Fauci, and only one in five trusts the Centers for Disease Control.

Those who reject vaccinations believe two negative theories about the effects of COVID-19 vaccines: half think it is likely that vaccines in general cause autism and that this vaccine in particular is being used by the government to microchip the population. Most Americans reject these theories, but only minorities of those who oppose their vaccinations do. Nearly one in three say they aren’t sure what to believe.

On the other side, most Americans who are currently vaccinated, or who plan to be, are skeptical of those who refuse to be vaccinated. Two-thirds of them don’t believe those rejecting the vaccine have any good reasons for their decision. Just 15% believe those who are not getting vaccinated have good reasons for their decisions.

Vaccinated Republicans are more likely than vaccinated Democrats to think the vaccine rejectors have good reasons for their decisions. But even more Republicans agree they do not.

See the toplines and crosstabs from this Economist/YouGov poll

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Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 US Adult Citizens interviewed online between July 10 - 13, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the US Bureau of the Census, as well as 2016 Presidential vote, registration status, geographic region, and news interest. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all US citizens. The margin of error is approximately 3% for the overall sample.

Image: Getty