One of the biggest obstacles in America’s race to vaccinate against the coronavirus has been that substantial proportions of certain groups choose not to vaccinate.
The polling has suggested all along that Republicans would be less likely to get vaccinations than Democrats – and this is now being seen in the real world.
Blue states are starting to outpace red states when it comes to vaccinations, and the instances where that isn’t the case are often explained by other expected demographic patterns.
There are a few different ways to look at vaccination rates by state, but they are showing the same picture as of Thursday.
Let’s first look at the percentage of those 18 and older with at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
The top 10 states on this metric are New Hampshire, New Mexico, South Dakota, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maine, Vermont, Alaska, and Minnesota and Rhode Island tied. Nearly all of these are states won by President Joe Biden last November, with Alaska and South Dakota as the exceptions.
Now look at the bottom 10 states on this metric: Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, Louisiana, Indiana, Wyoming, Missouri, Arkansas and Idaho. Former President Donald Trump won all of these states last year, except for Georgia.
Right now, 46% of those 18 and older in the average state Biden won have had at least one dose of the vaccine. That drops to 41% in the average state Trump won.
You could also look at the number of vaccines each state has administered for every 100,000 people 18 and older by the amount they have received for every 100,000 people 18 years and older. The story is pretty much the same.
Nine of the top 10 states on this metric are states Biden won last year. Eight of the bottom 10 states for vaccination are ones Trump won in 2020.
None of this should be surprising, examining the polling data. An NPR/Marist Poll in the field in late March suggested that we should be seeing a pattern just like this one.
That poll, like others, found that Democrats were far more likely to take the vaccine than Republicans were. Among Democrats, 47% said they had already received one dose of the vaccine. Just 33% of Republicans said they had. When asked whether they would eventually get it, 42% of Democrats said yes, compared with 23% of Republicans.
In other words, the gap that we’re already seeing between blue states and red states in terms of vaccination rates is more than likely to widen.
Republicans and conservatives from Jerry Falwell Jr. to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to Trump have tried to make sure it doesn’t widen and have spoken out in favor of the vaccines. Whether those efforts pay off with more Republicans willing to get vaccinated isn’t clear.
It won’t be easy.
There are a lot of intersecting causes for why different people have been less likely to get vaccinated.
Most of the states where vaccination rates are lowest happen to be ones where the Black population is high and where the percentage who graduated from college was low, while the reverse is true in the states with high vaccination rates. Indeed, you can explain nearly 50% of the variation in vaccine rates from state to state just by knowing what percentage of the adult population is Black and what percentage has a college degree.
Even if we are able to raise the vaccination rates in one of the lagging groups, it doesn’t mean the other ones won’t continue to be an issue.