Partisan divide on vaccinations in the US

6th May 2021

Recent polls carried out by US broadcaster ‘Public Broadcasting Service’ (PBS) in March 2021 found approximately 30% of Americans do not plan to take the COVID-19 vaccine. The studies also revealed 87% of Democrats said they would take or have received the vaccine, with 56% of Republicans saying the same. Examining this further, PBS reporting found that 49% of Republican men said they would refuse the vaccine and 41% of Republicans overall are not willing to take it.1

A poll carried out by Monmouth University in the US state of New Jersey in April 2021 seems to affirm PBS’s results by also showing a large disparity in numbers correlating to US political preference. Their results show 43% of Republicans choosing to avoid the vaccine, 22% of Independents and only 5% of Democrats choosing the same.2 Monmouth University does not consider race to be a factor in the decision to have the jab, with around 20% of white people and people of colour refusing the vaccine. Interestingly, the US COVID States Project even noted political partisanship in US healthcare workers; 32% of healthcare workers who vote Republican were refusing the vaccine compared to 13% of their Democratic colleagues.3

Last month, the US campaign to reduce vaccine hesitancy was strongly hindered when popular podcast star Joe Rogan suggested that young and healthy people do not need the vaccine. He stated on-air, “If you’re a healthy person, and you’re exercising all the time, and you’re young, and you’re eating well…like, I don’t think you need to worry about this.”4 This comes as the FDA announced it is due to approve the Pfizer vaccine next week for ages 12-15 with the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines expected to follow suit and a mass youth vaccination drive via schools planned for the autumn term as an increasing number of young victims are attributed to recent cases. 5

As of Monday 3rd May, 44.4% of Americans had received one dose of the vaccine 6 and active measures are underway to stem the tide of disinformation. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) states: “Misinformation is one of the most serious threats to public health, and it is most damaging when it fuels vaccine hesitancy.” They are currently working with social media and tech companies to combat fake news and address disinformation.7 The COVID States Project’s research into reasons for vaccine hesitancy suggests level of education is a major contributing factor and doctors and scientists’ explanations are valued over those of partisan politicians.