Vaccine acceptance is rising in America

March 04, 2021, 5:45 PM UTC

The most recent survey conducted by YouGov for Yahoo News shows a big increase in COVID-19 vaccine acceptance since the 2020 election, though the longer term trends are complicated by shifts in opinion during the campaign.

Trended data shows that vaccine acceptance is on the rise, with the hesitance that many felt during the election campaign fading away. Nonetheless, a significant minority of Americans — particularly those who are Republican and non-college educated — remains stubbornly resistant to the coronavirus vaccine.

The Yahoo News/YouGov surveys tracked the question, “do you plan to get vaccinated for COVID–19,” throughout the latter half of 2020. In early May, 55% of adults said they planned to get vaccinated. A few days later, the Trump administration rolled out its “Operation Warp Speed” vaccination plan, and Trump began speculating that a vaccine might be available before the election. During this period, the number of Americans who said they planned to get vaccinated fell steadily to a low of 32% in early September.

Over this same period, intent to vaccinate tracked roughly five percentage points higher among registered voters than all adults. Yahoo News/YouGov surveys have consistently shown voters to be slightly more accepting of vaccines than Americans overall.

In mid-September, YouGov began conducting pre-election interviews screened for registered voters, so our trends for the rest of the campaign reflect that population only. Between mid-September to mid-October, intent to vaccinate among voters varied between 36% and 40%, then trended upward to 42% and 45%, perhaps reflecting news in mid-October that pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna planned to apply for emergency use authorization for their vaccines by late November. 

On the latest Yahoo News/YouGov survey, conducted February 20–22, 14% of adults (and 17% of registered voters) say they have been vaccinated for COVID-19%. Another 40% of adults (and 43% of registered voters) say they plan to get vaccinated. The percentage of registered voters who are vaccinated or plan to get vaccinated (60%) has rebounded by more than than 20 percentage points since October, though to a level only slightly higher than the 57% who said back in May 2020 that they planned to get vaccinated. 

Meanwhile, 23% of registered voters now say, “no,” they will not get vaccinated, a number roughly unchanged from the last two-pre-election surveys (22% and 23%).

Registered Democrats and Independents who lean Democratic are more likely to have been vaccinated or say they plan to be vaccinated (77%) than Republicans and Republican leaners (47%) or Independents who lean to neither party (46%). That gap has been present in our surveys all along, although it was similarly wide last summer before narrowing in September and October. 

A second question adds important context. In a survey conducted in early September, just 13% of registered voters said they planned to get vaccinated “as soon as a vaccine is available,” while half (52%) said they would get vaccinated only after “waiting and seeing what happens when others take it.” 

The wait-and-see number declined slightly (to the mid-40s) as the election approached, but the picture is very different now. The new survey shows that a majority of registered voters (55%) have been vaccinated (17%) or say they will do so as soon as a vaccine is available (38%). Those who say they will only get vaccinated “after seeing what happens when others take it” has plummeted from 45% to 13%. As other researchers have found, the beginning of the vaccine rollout helped shift millions of Americans from hesitance to acceptance. 

The surge in acceptance is largest among Democrats and Democratic leaners (21% to 73%), but acceptance has also grown among Republicans and Republican leaners (21% to 41%) and non-leaning Independents (18% to 42%). 

About one in four (23%) registered voters (and 24% of all adults) continue to say they will “never” take the vaccine, roughly the same percentage as September and October 2020. 

Where is the hardcore resistance greatest? Looking at all adults on the most recent survey, the percentage who say they will “never” get vaccinated is greatest among white Republicans and Republican leaners (36%) and white Americans with no college education (30%). The “never” number is about the same for white Americans (23%) as Black Americans (25%). One in five Hispanic Americans (21%) say they will not ever get vaccinated, with 26% of this group waiting to see what happens to others before deciding. 

See the toplines and crosstabs from this Yahoo News/YouGov poll, and explore more data from this partnership

Methodology: The Yahoo! News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,556 U.S. adults interviewed online between February 20 - 22, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, as well as 2020 Presidential vote (or non-vote), and voter registration status. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. adults. The margin of error for the entire sample is 2.9%  

Image: Getty