Poll of the week: A new NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist College poll finds that 61% of Americans say they’ll choose to get the coronavirus vaccine if it is made available to them. A minority (32%) said they would not.
What’s the point: The effort to vaccinate Americans to prevent them from getting the coronavirus will be a complicated effort. There will need to be enough vaccines, a plan to get Americans those vaccines and, finally, Americans willing to take them.
The first two parts of that equation are largely out of everyday Americans’ hands.
The good news is that when it comes to the third and final crucial step, the percentage of Americans who say they’ll get the vaccine continues to climb higher.
Take the Marist College poll, for example. The 61% who indicated that they’d get vaccinated is up from 49% in September. Pew’s shift is in the positive direction as well going from 51% in September to 60% now.
Most promising perhaps is what Gallup is showing. The percentage of Americans said they’d agree to get the vaccine went from 50% in late September to 58% in late October to 63% in late November. In other words, we’re seeing a steady, not just one time, incline.
Now, we should note that these are just polls asking about a (very likely) hypothetical. More than polls about an election, question wording matters here. An AP-NORC poll found that 27% of Americans chose “not sure” when it came to getting the vaccine, when the pollster explicitly gave that option to choose from. The spread between yes (47%) and no (26%) on the vaccine was similar to other polling.
We’ll have to see how well these poll results actually capture future reality.
That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to the trendline. A rise in that is good news no matter what the actual baseline is.
It’s possible baseline questions such as these may actually be underestimating the number of Americans who’d be willing to get vaccinated. What polls agree upon is that Americans want to see is that the vaccine works and is safe.
Indeed, this may be why we’re witnessing the percentage of Americans in favor of getting the vaccine go up. Over the last month, we’ve had very promising news on the effectiveness of at least two vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna). The United Kingdom is already distributing the Pfizer vaccine, and we’ll likely see some Americans getting it soon.
Of course, it will take a few months before most Americans will have access to the vaccine, but that may actually work out to not be such a bad thing.
The Quinnipiac poll found that just 37% of registered voters said they’d get a coronavirus vaccine as soon it became available. Another 41% said they’d wait a few months. A mere 20% said they’d never take it.
In sum, 78% of voters say they’d get when given the option to wait a few months. That’s higher than the 61% who said they’d get when posed a binary yes or no by Quinnipiac.
If we got anywhere near 78% of Americans to take the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, it’d be very good news. As I noted last month, a vaccine that covers 65% to 70% of the population is likely to get us population immunity through vaccination, per the World Health Organization.
Still, there’s work to be done when it comes to convincing Americans to get vaccinated. Some of the skepticism seems to be concentrated in certain groups.
Older Americans, who are most in danger of dying from the virus, are more willing than younger Americans in a slew of surveys.
There also seems to be a widening partisan gap on the vaccine. In the Gallup poll, 75% of Democrats compared to 50% of Republicans said they’d get it.
Beyond that, things don’t break down so neatly. Women (54% in the Pew poll) are less likely than men (67% in the Pew poll) to say they’d definitely or probably take the vaccine, even though women are more likely to be Democrats.
And Black Americans (42% in the Pew poll) are far less likely than White Americans (61% in the Pew poll) to be in favor of taking the vaccine. CNN’s Nicquel Terry Ellis and Jason Carroll reported on how “America’s history of racism in medical research and a lack of trust in the federal government” from Black Americans may be a large factor in this gap.
We may need concentrated messages aimed at all of these groups to overcome their unwillingness to get vaccinated.
That’s why the next few months will be crucial in ensuring enough Americans take the vaccine. There needs to be coordination in messaging, not just in delivering the vaccines themselves.