Republicans Aren’t New To The Anti-Vaxx Movement

At first glance, Melissa seems to meet all the criteria for the “crispy granola” variety. She tracks the ingredients of every product she buys and uses apps to detect anything that is not “clean”. She says she thinks she is immune to vaccinations.

“I’m not against vaccinations for everyone,” she wrote to me in a Facebook Messenger chat. “[But] I am very suspicious of pharmaceutical companies and that is the main reason I hesitate to get vaccines for myself and my family. “

But it’s not exactly on the left. Melissa, a student of a nurse and midwife in Nebraska, said she was libertarian, and while there are ideas left and right with which she agrees, her main political position is that “the government should not regulate things that do not harm others” .

The modern anti-vaccination movement in America has often associated with a stereotype of left-wing, white, wealthy mothers on the coast – these “crispy granola” types. In recent years it has happened in affluent, liberal places like Marin County, California, and Boulder, Colorado. But while the public narrative focused on these left enclaves, they were nowhere near the only regions affected by outbreaks of vaccine-preventable disease: Conservative communities of Orthodox JewsFor example, some of which also oppose vaccines have seen spikes in cases as well.

How COVID-19 vaccines work

And polls over the past two decades have consistently shown that Republicans are just as likely as Democrats to be hesitant about vaccination. So while right-wing opposition to the COVID-19 vaccines may feel like a U-turn for anti-Vax in America, both sides of the political divide have always been there – but now the margins of one side have slipped into the mainstream.

“Vaccine denial has always been a place where left meets right,” said Jennifer Reich, professor of sociology at the University of Colorado and author of Calling the Shots: Why Parents Reject Vaccines.

Although anti-vaccines have been around as long as vaccines, the modern anti-vaccination movement didn’t emerge until after the 1998 publication a notorious and since withdrawn study in The Lancet, falsely claiming the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine caused autism. In the following years – partly spurred on by the support of Celebrities like Jenny McCarthy – a new era of vaccination fears began with small but violent ones Cohorts of parents who refuse to be vaccinated their children. And polls consistently showed that those small cohorts included Americans on the left and right.

Take a series of Gallup polls conducted in 2001, 2015, and 2019. Each time Gallup asked respondents the same questions about vaccines, and while there have always been opponents of vaccination across the political spectrum, the latest poll showed a surge in anti-vaccine adoption among Republicans and independents.

When asked how important it is for parents to vaccinate their children, very few or no respondents in previous surveys said it was “not very” or “not at all” important. But in 2019, 8 percent of Republicans, 8 percent of Independents, and 2 percent of Democrats said it was “not very” or “not at all” important that parents vaccinate their children.

Which side of the political aisle was more Anti-vaccine really depends on the question and the survey. In a 2013 YouGov poll, 11 percent of Democrats, 14 percent of Independents, and 9 percent of Republicans said they believe vaccines cause autism. But in a 2017 YouGov poll, 19 percent of Democrats, 31 percent of Independents, and 39 percent of Republicans said it was “definitely” or “likely” true that vaccines would cause autism. A 2015 Pew Research Center survey 9 percent of Democrats, 10 percent of Independents, and 5 percent of Republicans found the MMR vaccine unsafe. And in a 2015 CBS poll38 percent of Republicans, 34 percent of Independents, and 23 percent of Democrats, when asked whether parents need to vaccinate their children or should be free to choose, parents should be able to make their own choices.

When asked about vaccine safety, Republicans and Democrats are roughly equally likely to express their hesitant beliefs. But when asked about government mandates, Republicans are much more likely to take the stance toward vaccination, according to Allan McCoy, professor of sociology at the State University of New York. In a 2018 study published in Critical Public Health, McCoy compared two Pew Center surveys on vaccine beliefs. He found that the more ideologically a respondent was – regardless of whether they were on the left or right – the more likely they were to think vaccines were unsafe. When asked whether vaccinations should be compulsory or left to the parents, respondents who described themselves as “very conservative” were 136 percent more likely than “moderate” to think that this should be the parents’ choice, while those who were “liberal” and “very” liberal “were 44 percent and 13 percent fewer probably think so, or Democrats and Republicans are almost equally likely to be against vaccinations, but especially Republicans Even tends against vaccination regulations.

But if vaccination reluctance prior to the pandemic was relatively bipartisan, vaccination reluctance about the COVID-19 vaccine was anything but. Surveys and vaccination rates showed that Republicans are less likely to be vaccinated, and more likely to say they don’t plan on getting the injection as democrats. Shana Kushner Gadarian, professor of political science at Syracuse University, and her colleagues have conducted a panel poll of 3,000 Americans for the past 18 months. Gadarian told me that during the pandemic there had been a partisan split in all health behaviors (not just about the vaccine, but also about wearing masks, washing hands, seeing the doctor).

“Party party isn’t the only determinant, but it’s the strongest and most consistent determinant that even controls age, education, where people live and the number of COVID-19 cases in the area,” Gadarian said.

This split over the COVID-19 vaccine reflects the politicization of the entire pandemic, but what does this mean for the demographics of the anti-Vaxx movement beyond COVID-19? Experts I spoke to said it was too early to say this and so far there hasn’t been enough polls on beliefs not based on COVID-19 vaccines to be definitive. In a YouGov poll from July 2019For example, 14 percent of Democrats, 21 percent of Independents, and 28 percent of Republicans said it is “definitely” or “likely” true that vaccines have been shown to cause autism. When you go asked the same question last July, 11 percent of Democrats, 18 percent of Independents, and 27 percent of Republicans said so.

Chances are some left anti-Vaxxers will question their stance in the face of the sudden adoption of anti-vaccine positions on the right. But Reich, who studied vaccinated parents for years, said they don’t usually identify as “anti-vaccine” and feel their ideals stronger – as if parents are the best person to make decisions about their own child’s health – than his Identity. So, Republicans who hold similar beliefs won’t necessarily feel like a challenge to left-wing parents.

Instead, it is possible that Republican resistance to the COVID-19 vaccine in general could mutate into vaccine delay if a person’s political identity calls for resistance.

“I worry that the politicization could endanger the social consensus” [currently] for vaccination, ”said Brendan Nyhan, Professor of Government at Dartmouth College. “If we see attitudes about vaccines closely tied to partisanship and ideology, we could see polarization in vaccination that over time would threaten herd immunity to a whole range of diseases.”

From her point of view, Melissa said the idea that Republicans might become more hesitant in general is not just a hypothesis.

“From a group chat I’m in, I know for a fact that some Republicans are rethinking their stance on all vaccines,” she wrote.

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