Political differences in opinions about the COVID-19 vaccine have been matched by divides in other health-related attitudes. Far more Democrats than Republicans now say they trust government institutions that make health-care decisions, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.
The widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines also has coincided with widening partisan divisions in opinion about vaccine mandates for children. In the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, support for traditional childhood school vaccine mandates has declined from last August, before the U.S. approved vaccines against COVID-19.
The growing partisan gap on childhood vaccine mandates may be in part because while the question about them hasn’t changed — it asks about vaccines for infectious diseases — what could be covered by it has grown, to include the COVID-19 vaccine for eligible children. And the partisan divide on requiring specifically that children be vaccinated against COVID-19 is massive. Asked specifically about childhood vaccine mandates for COVID-19, 79% of Democrats are in favor and 9% are opposed, compared to 25% and 63% for Republicans.
While the overall drop in support for childhood vaccine mandates is small, that is the net result of a 13-percentage-point decline in Republican support to 46%, and a 5-point drop in Independent support, being partially offset by a 6-point increase in Democratic approval.
There are childhood vaccine mandates in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, with some variation in which vaccines are required and whether exemptions for religious and philosophical reasons are granted.
Fewer than half of Republicans (47%) describe vaccines in general as “very safe,” 25 points lower than the share of Democrats who describe them that way.
Partisan differences on getting the COVID-19 shot also are substantial. In this poll, 56% of Republicans say they have been fully vaccinated, compared with 79% of Democrats. One-third of Republicans say they will not get vaccinated, compared to just 5% of Democrats. Most Republicans who are fully vaccinated support childhood vaccine mandates (61% to 22%), but by more than two to one (59% to 24%), Republicans who say they will not get the COVID-19 vaccine oppose requiring childhood vaccinations against infectious diseases.
Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 U.S. adult citizens interviewed online between October 9 - 12, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the 2018 American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, as well as 2020 Presidential vote. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. citizens. The margin of error is approximately 3.0% for the overall sample.