fb-pixel Skip to main content

41 percent of Republicans and 34 percent of independents leery of COVID-19 vaccine, poll finds

A dose of the coronavirus vaccine being prepared. Pollsters say your politics may say a lot about whether you're willing to get a shot.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

The Biden administration’s planned $1.5 billion effort to encourage people to get coronavirus shots will focus, among other things, on resistance among conservatives. Recent polls — including one that found about half of Republican men would refuse a shot — underline why that’s key.

An NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist poll found that 41 percent of Republicans and 34 percent of independents would refuse to get vaccinated if they could get a shot. Only 11 percent of Democrats would refuse shots, the poll found.

Among Republican men, vaccine resistance was highest, reaching 49 percent. The number was 36 percent for independent men, and 6 percent among Democratic men.


The results came from a national poll conducted March 3 through March 8.

“I just don’t get it,” Anthony Fauci, Biden’s lead medical adviser on the pandemic, said Sunday on NBC-TV’s “Meet the Press” when asked about the partisan divide in vaccine acceptance. “It makes absolutely no sense. And I’ve been saying that for so long. We’ve got to dissociate political persuasion from what’s common sense, no-brainer public health things.”

Polling by a consortium that includes Northeastern, Harvard, Rutgers, and Northwestern universities also recently found a partisan divide in acceptance of the vaccine.

Researchers from the COVID-19 Consortium for Understanding the Public’s Policy Preferences Across State found that 30 percent of Republicans and 31 percent of independents said they would not get the vaccine, while 11 percent of Democrats would refuse. The researchers did not break down the party results by gender.

Researchers noted their poll question was worded slightly differently, offering respondents a chance to say if they were already vaccinated, and, if not, whether they would get the vaccine “as soon as possible,” “after some people I know,” “after most people I know,” or not at all. In addition to the 30 percent of Republicans who said they would not get the vaccine, another 17 percent said they would get it “after most people I know.”


“The benefit of our wording is that it gets at the fact that some people are adopting a wait and see attitude,” said one of the researchers, David Lazer, a professor of political science and computer science at Northeastern, suggesting many of those people might respond no if pressed to give a simple yes/no choice.

The researchers noted an interesting trend: Democratic vaccine resistance peaked before Democratic President Biden’s election victory over Republican Donald Trump. Republican vaccine resistance increased after the election.

The results came from a national survey conducted from Feb. 5 to March 1.

A CNN poll released last week offered the starkest results of all. Fifty-seven percent of Republicans said they would not try to get the vaccine, according to the poll conducted from March 3 to March 8.

STAT reports that the federal campaign to persuade people to get vaccinated will also target young people and people of color, but officials and public health experts say reaching conservatives may be the biggest hurdle — and one key may be the divisive, twice-impeached Trump.

“When Magic Johnson said: ‘I have HIV, I got tested, and I am going to keep my family safe, I’m going to take antiretroviral drugs,’ we saw HIV testing rates go up the day after his announcement,” Sten Vermund, the dean of the Yale School of Public Health told STAT.


“It may take Donald Trump as a celebrity, saying, ‘I got the vaccine, I feel great.’ It may take a different kind of celebrity to reach the conspiracists and the antivax folks who are militant in that space,” Vermund said.

In the midst of a nearly 1 1/2-hour-long speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference last month, Trump said, “Everybody, go get your shots.” But he did not participate in a public service announcement that featured former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter.

Asked if Trump should join the effort to get people to get their shots, Fauci said on “Fox News Sunday,” “I wish he would. ... It would really be a game-changer if he did.”

Material from Globe wire services was used in this report.

Martin Finucane can be reached at martin.finucane@globe.com.