Peer Pressure, Not Politics, May Matter Most When It Comes To Getting The COVID-19 Vaccine

Since the COVID-19 vaccination rate is slowing down in the US – only about only, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 54 percent of the eligible population were fully vaccinated from Monday morning – red states are falling behind. The lowest vaccination rates are in deep red states like Mississippi and Alabamawhile deep blue states like Vermont and Massachusetts have been far more successful at vaccinating their residents.

This widening gap between red and blue states has reignited fears that politics is seriously undermining the nation’s vaccination efforts. And for good reason: there is a strong and growing gap in the vaccination rates in republican and democratic parts of the country. But the unique focus on politics ignores the crucial role social pressures play in deciding whether to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

For starters, Republicans simply have fewer friends who have been vaccinated. in the a May poll conducted by the American Enterprise Institute’s Survey Center on American Life, of which I am director, less than half of Republicans (46 percent) said that most or all of their friends received at least a single dose of the vaccine. For Democrats, vaccination among their own kind is the norm. Two-thirds said most or all of their friends had been vaccinated at least partially.

Additionally, in this survey, Republicans were far less likely to be encouraged by friends or family members to get vaccinated than Democrats (28 percent versus 55 percent). In fact, one in three Republicans reported that friends or family advised them not to get the vaccine, or that they received mixed news about the importance of vaccination.

This finding is remarkable because while partiality is a factor that influences our behavior, social science research shows time and again that our friends have a profound – and often invisible – influence on us. For example, if you have friends who smoke or are obese, yours is Chances of Smoking or Being Obese increase significantly.

This is how it can be to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Americans whose immediate social circle was fully vaccinated were far more likely than those with less vaccinated friends to have the vaccine, according to the Survey Center on American Life study. And while overall higher rates of vaccination reluctance were reported, so did Republicans. Ninety-three percent of Republicans whose friends were at least partially vaccinated had also been vaccinated. In contrast, only 19 percent of Republicans with few or no friends who were partially vaccinated said they had the vaccine.

If your friends are vaccinated, so are you likely to be

Proportion of respondents who are at least partially vaccinated, according to how many of their friends are also at least partially vaccinated, in total and by party

% of respondents vaccinated
Share of vaccinated friends All republican Democrats
All of them 98% 93% 100%
Most of them 90 85 93
About half 61 52 70
Few or none 27 19th 35

The respondents reported the vaccination status of their social group themselves.

Source: Survey Center on American Life

Of course, self-selection can play a role in this relationship, as our friends generally share our values, but even when personal factors such as age, gender, race, ethnicity, and political affiliation were controlled in this study, the results showed that vaccination Our friends’ status strongly predicts our own.

We should not dismiss the role of politics in procrastinating about vaccines, but that reluctance is not universal among Republicans. The reasons for this reluctance are not uniformly political either. A May Kaiser Family Foundation survey found, for example, that the political gap between those 65 and older was relatively small. Older Americans in Trump-voting circles didn’t lag far behind those in Biden-voting circles in vaccination (63 percent versus 71 percent). Rather, the younger adults were the age group who expressed the greatest reluctance to vaccinate: A June Morning Consult survey found that 43 percent of 18 to 34 year olds did not want to be vaccinated or were unsure.

Because COVID-19 is so much more dangerous for elderly people, they are likely to have greater personal incentives to get vaccinated, but are also likely to face greater social pressures. Again, the Survey Center on American Life study found that older Americans – Democrats and Republicans alike – were far more likely to vaccinate friends than younger Americans.

Americans experience very different social pressures to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. And for better or for worse, our friends make a significant impact on the information we have and the decisions we make.

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