The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Republican vaccine resistance remains stubborn

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) gives a thumbs-up to Doris Coleston after Coleston received a coronavirus vaccination at a clinic in Camden, Ala., this month. (Kim Chandler/AP)

Two things have happened over the past several months. As more Americans have received doses of the available coronavirus vaccines, the percentage of people who say they are wary of being vaccinated has declined. The percentage of people who flatly state that they won’t be vaccinated, though, hasn’t changed much at all.

Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, made that point flatly when releasing new data showing that 21 percent of Americans say they will probably never get vaccinated.

“The number of people who have been skittish about the vaccine has dropped as more Americans line up for the shot,” Murray said in a statement, “but the hard core group who want to avoid it at all costs has barely budged.”

That assessment isn’t only Monmouth’s. Polling conducted by YouGov for the Economist finds something similar. Since October, the percentage of people saying they are not sure if they will get vaccinated has dropped from 33 percent to 16 percent — cut in half. The percentage reporting that they either will be or have been vaccinated has climbed by about the same amount. But those who say they won’t get it? Essentially flat.

What stands out is that while Democrats and those 65 and older have followed the overall pattern, there has been little difference in the views expressed by Republicans. In October and November, an average of 38 percent of Republicans told YouGov that they didn’t plan to get vaccinated. In March and April, the average was 37 percent. In Monmouth’s poll, 43 percent of Republicans said they would probably never get a dose.

As vaccine availability has expanded to include more adults, a pattern has emerged: States that voted more heavily for President Donald Trump in 2020 are also states where lower percentages of the population have been vaccinated.

Excluding New Hampshire (where the vaccination rate has been dubiously high) and D.C. (where it has been dubiously low), places that voted for Joe Biden last year have seen an average of 40 percent of their populations receiving at least one vaccine dose. In states that voted for Trump, an average of 34 percent have been vaccinated.

It’s not clear how this pattern can be shifted to increase the number of Republicans who are willing to be vaccinated. Some prominent Republicans have explicitly advocated being vaccinated, like Jerry Falwell Jr. or Sen. John Neely Kennedy (La.).

Others, largely in conservative media, have taken a different tack, leveraging the skepticism on the right to score points with their audiences.

Last month, we reported on research showing that Republicans’ support for being vaccinated increased when they heard that Trump advocated it. The challenge, though, is that many Republicans aren’t aware that Trump does support the vaccine or that he himself was quietly vaccinated before he left office.

So, for now at least, we’re stuck. Not everyone who doesn’t want to be vaccinated is Republican, but Republicans make up a disproportionate part of vaccine skepticism. There’s little indication for now that this pattern is likely to change.