White conservatives are the most staunchly resistant to vaccines in the US, a new poll shows

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White conservatives are the most staunchly resistant to vaccines in the US, a new poll shows
A protester holds an anti-vaccine sign as supporters of President Donald Trump rally in Woodland Hills, California, on May 16, 2020. David McNew/Getty Images
  • White conservatives are the most staunchly resistant to vaccines, a new Axios/Ipsos poll found.
  • Many of these respondents also said they were skeptical of big institutions like the CDC.
  • Roughly half of those who said they're likely to get vaccinated were Black or Hispanic.

White people are more staunchly opposed to vaccines than any other racial group, or according to a joint survey from Axios and the polling service Ipsos.

More than 1,500 unvaccinated adults responded to the survey between May 7 and July 19, answering questions about whether they planned to get vaccinated. Around 68% of people who said they were "not at all likely" to get a coronavirus shot were white, compared with just 14% who were Hispanic and 12% who were Black.

People who said they were staunchly opposed to vaccines tended to be older, more conservative, and predominantly concentrated in the South, the results showed. Around 45% of people who said they were "not at all likely" to get a vaccine were Republican, compared to 42% who were Independent and just 12% who were Democrat.

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These people were also the most likely to say that they didn't consume traditional mainstream news and were skeptical of big institutions like state governments or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as authority figures like President Joe Biden.

"It appears that their opposition to getting the vaccine is substantially ideological or has to do with their self-identity," Chris Jackson, senior vice president for Ipsos Public Affairs, told Axios of the "not at all likely" group.

Another set of people said they were "not very likely" to get vaccinated - an indicator that they could still be swayed. White people represented a majority of this group, too: 62%. But those respondents were more likely to be Independent (50%) than Republican (30%).

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"The second group, the one that's not very likely to get the vaccine but is not necessarily the hard-pass, they're skeptical they need it," Jackson said. "That's where the persuasion effort needs to be focused."

The narrative that Black and brown communities are most vaccine-hesitant is false

White conservatives are the most staunchly resistant to vaccines in the US, a new poll shows
Jamilette Mota, 17, receives her Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine from nurse Josselyn Solano at a mobile clinic in Los Angeles on April 20. Al Seib/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

The new survey counters a persistent narrative that Black and brown communities in the US are among the most vaccine-hesitant. Some polling suggested that may have been true earlier in the pandemic, before vaccines were authorized, but the script has flipped since then.

Roughly half the people who said they "very or somewhat likely to get vaccinated" in the survey were Black or Hispanic. Around 43% of those respondents were white.

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"The group that still says they're willing to get the vaccine but hasn't gotten it, it appears that is more about access to the vaccine," Jackson told Axios. "It's not necessarily convincing them they should; it's convincing them how they can."

That doesn't mean local health departments should ignore vaccine hesitancy among Black and brown communities, though. Libby Page, the immunization program director in King County, Washington (which includes Seattle), said both access to shots and vaccine hesitancy are to blame for the county's lagging vaccination rates among Black and Hispanic residents.

White conservatives are the most staunchly resistant to vaccines in the US, a new poll shows
Byron Saunders holds his wife Joyce's hand as she gets the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in Seattle on March 13, 2021. Jason Redmond/AFP/Getty Images

"We're hearing quite often from people who are holding down multiple jobs, who don't have paid sick leave, who don't have time to take off work to go get vaccinated, who have to care for loved ones and can't afford to feel unwell following vaccination," Page said.

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At the same time, she added, Black residents are very aware of the legacy of the 40-year Tuskegee experiment, which denied syphilis treatment to Black men who had enrolled under the promise of free medical care.

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