Even before America had received their “patient zero”, political influence and private interests were seeping into the US pandemic response. The ways in which people viewed the COVID-19 pandemic and it’s severity was colored by their political affiliation, and where they sourced their news from. As with many cultural events that spawned throughout the Trump administration, your voting record was a likely predictor of your beliefs about the disease’s severity, and what safety measures it necessitated.
As time went on, and the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic continued to spread throughout the United States, the divide between the American public only grew deeper. Lines were drawn, splitting people into increasingly polarized segments. Social media and news outlets pitted citizens against one another in heated cultural battles, while the pandemic raged on. Democrats against republicans; Covid believers against Covid deniers; masker vs anti-masker; Q-Anon believers vs reality; vaccine supporters against anti-vaxxers.
As the Biden administration continues rolling out it’s vaccine program across the nation, we are seeing a return to normalcy taking root. While some of those who have received the vaccine feel as though they have been given a peace of mind they’ve not felt in over 14 months - others share far more skepticism.
To further explore the divide between politically-active Americans and their vaccine sentiments, we surveyed 300 registered US voters on their experiences with the vaccination process thus far. While many citizens are still struggling to make an appointment - either due to long waits, broken government websites, or eligibility issues - others outright refuse to take the jab.
The Trump Administration’s controversial and misaligned handling of the coronavirus; growing public distrust of both the federal government and pharmaceutical companies; boiling tensions between an increasingly divided citizenry; fast-tracked vaccines; one contested election; one change in administration. All of these elements lead to distrust and contempt for the country’s latest attempt at mass vaccinating its citizens.
As of April 8th, the government has administered over 175 million vaccines. Deaths in the US recently surpassed 550,000 - and while many are preparing for a life post-Covid, many experts warn that we are far from ready for a return to form. As the number of eager citizens rushing to get vaccinated dwindles and vaccine infrastructure increases, the government will have to shift more focus on capturing the attention of those unready or unwilling to get vaccinated.
The federal government has begun funding the development of unique strategies (Wood and Schulman) for promoting vaccination against coronavirus; the primary focus of these strategies is to segment the unvaccinated public into groups with shared identity characteristics. Those who do not believe in the science behind the vaccine, and those who have what researchers refer to as a “Covid-defiant identity” are a few of these targeted segments.
In order to see just how deep the divide on vaccine sentiment runs among US voters, we needed some answers. We surveyed 300 registered American voters - 100 democrats, 100 republicans, and 100 independents - in order to paint a clearer picture of what your voting preferences can say about your chances of being vaccinated.
Given the current administration and the growing divide among American voters, we expect to see a higher percentage of Republican voters who have not or refuse to get any of the COVID-19 vaccines when compared to Democrat and Independent voters.
Thus, our null hypothesis is that we will not see any statistically significant variation between voting preferences and vaccine sentiment.
We presented our 300 Helpfull survey recipients with the following survey in order to gather valuable data pertaining to their political affiliation and current vaccination status:
Question #1: How would you describe your political leanings?
Question #2: Have you received a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus, or plan on receiving a vaccine?
Question #3: If you have received your COVID-19 vaccination, which vaccine were you given?
Question #4: Who or where do you primarily rely on for receiving true and correct information about the COVID-19 pandemic? (Social Media, Cable News, The Federal Government, etc.)
Question #5: Please share any thoughts you have on your experiences with the COVID-19 vaccine or any concerns you have with getting the vaccination.
Our hope is that the answers to these questions will give us the data we need to paint a clear picture of what each voting bloc and their shared beliefs towards vaccines look like.
For the 300 registered voters that responded to our survey, the number of voters who claimed to be vaccinated among each voting bloc appears as such; each one of these voters have received at least one or all of their vaccines:
Note that we are not able to independently verify that any of these voters have been vaccinated, due to patient privacy laws.
In addition to gathering information about our respondents’ vaccine status, we also wanted to see what the distribution of vaccines by manufacturer looked like among the voting populous. We found no evidence of a correlation between the voting group one identifies with and the vaccine they were likely to be given.
Among all three voting blocs, we see a significant portion of vaccines distributed are manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna. This is to be expected, given that both vaccines were approved by the federal government for general use months before the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
For each of the three major US voting blocs, we broke down each set of respondents by the answers they gave us to the following question:
Have you received a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus, or plan on receiving a vaccine?
From the data gathered from our survey, our findings reveal:
Our final question allowed respondents to freely write-in any comments or concerns they might have about their experiences with the Covid-19 vaccine. We analyzed all 300 comments, looking for users who explicitly expressed concern with either the vaccine’s efficacy (whether it would perform in the way it was advertised) and the vaccine’s safety (what the long-term side-effects would be).
Of the respondents who answered, we found:
Among the feedback we were given on this final question, many individuals who expressed concerns asserted that these vaccines have not been thoroughly or adequately tested for long-term side-effects. Others expressed distrust with the government and pharmaceutical companies; many feared some severe reaction or illness would overtake them after being vaccinated.
Of those who had already been vaccinated or had signed up to be vaccinated, the sentiments were far more positive. Many users shared how the Covid vaccination has given them a renewed peace of mind and sense of safety. Others highly encouraged their fellow voters to do what they felt was a civic duty in getting vaccinated promptly.
Of the three largest voting blocs in America, our survey indicates that independent voters are the most likely to express concern about the Covid-19 vaccine, and are the most likely to feel unsure about getting vaccinated; also, independent voters are the segment most likely to be unvaccinated.
Republican voters, while 7% more likely to be vaccinated on average than independents, held the largest percentage of voters who out-right refused to consider getting vaccinated for coronavirus. This indicates that conservative voters should be targeted - through means of government out-reach and community involvement - to be persuaded and encouraged to receive their vaccines.
The path to vaccinating the country is still long and arduous. With public trust in the government at historic lows, and with many still reeling from the devastating impacts of this global tragedy, many voters remain unconvinced that getting vaccinated is the right choice.
If we ever hope to fully heal, we are going to need everyone to do their part in keeping themselves safe and protected. That being said, we should not denigrate or belittle those who are fearful or skeptical of receiving the vaccine.
On-going research - like the kind being conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine - shows that, for the best results, the vaccination process must be conducted patiently, and with compassion. Through education, community involvement, and perseverance, we hope to bridge this divide - and make the country whole again.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “CDC Covid Data Tracker.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021, https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#datatracker-home. Accessed 9 April 2021.
Gollwitzer, Anton, et al. “Partisan differences in physical distancing are linked to health outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Nature, vol. Nature Human Behavior, no. 4, 2020, pp. 1186-1197. Nature, https://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-020-00977-7.
“What the 2020 electorate looks like by party, race and ethnicity, age, education and religion.” Pew Research Center, 2020, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/10/26/what-the-2020-electorate-looks-like-by-party-race-and-ethnicity-age-education-and-religion/. Accessed 3 April 2021.
Wood, Stacy, and Kevin Schulman. “Beyond Politics — Promoting Covid-19 Vaccination in the United States.” The New England Journal of Medicine, The New England Journal of Medicine, 2021, https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejmms2033790. Accessed 3 April 2021.
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