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COVID-19 has already claimed the lives of 1 million Americans, a grim cornerstone exacerbated by the fact that probably a third of these deaths could have been avoided. Estimates suggest that more than 318,000 deaths from the disease occurred among those who had access to vaccines but chose not to receive any.

With such a devastating pandemic spanning the country and the globe, why would so many Americans give up a potentially life-saving vaccine?

One key answer to this question is – as in many in the United States today – guerrilla politics.

Since vaccines for COVID-19 first became available, polls have consistently shown that Republicans are much less likely than Democrats to be vaccinated or want to be vaccinated. According to monthly surveys conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, this guerrilla difference averaged more than 30 percentage points between May 2021 and April 2022.

But the story is both more complex and more comprehensive than it seems at first glance. We know that parties and ideology are the cause of many differences in the lives of Americans.

Our research finds that not only is party affiliation a powerful predictor of vaccination readiness, but it also contributes to other attitudes that encourage or hinder the desire for vaccination, giving it extra strength.

Attracting partisanship

In two studies we conducted in March and June 2021, we found this party affiliation influenced COVID-19 vaccination preferences despite some of the standard influences such as education, age, and race. This means that only the party can help determine if a person has been vaccinated.

What we also found, however, is that attachment has additional effects on vaccination status and desire. This is because it contributes to other factors that also affect the desire for vaccination, and thus contributes “indirectly” to the desire, as well as directly.

These indirect factors include the impact of partisanship on a person’s concern to become infected with COVID-19; concern for others who negotiate it; trust in government; trust in scientists and medical professionals; and conspiracy theories surrounding the vaccine – namely that the vaccine will insert a tracking microchip into the body and that it may cause infertility.

Party affiliation influenced Americans’ attitudes in each of these areas, which in turn influenced a person’s desire to be vaccinated against COVID-19. This mainly multiplies the effect that party affiliation has on vaccinations.

Separation of vaccines

Republicans and Democrats have not always felt differently about potentially life-saving vaccines.

A review of historical trends in public opinion during other health crises, it shows that in 1954, Republicans were about as likely – only 3 percentage points less – than Democrats said they were ready to receive the new polio vaccine at the time.

The vaccine gap between the countries for Asian influenza vaccine in 1957 was slightly larger, but still far from today’s difference – Democrats were 9 points more likely to receive this vaccine. For the swine flu vaccine in 1976, Democrats were 4 points more likely to receive the vaccine.

But since 2000, there have been double-digit gaps in readiness to receive other vaccines to tackle public health crises. When the George W. Bush administration picked up the possibility of reintroducing the smallpox vaccine in 2002Republicans were 11 points less likely than Democrats to say they would get the vaccine. During swine flu pandemic in 2009, this difference increased to 15 points. Most recently, the initial reaction in a Gallup poll in July 2020 to the promise of a new vaccine against COVID-19 led to a difference of 34 points: 81% of Democrats said they were likely to receive the vaccine compared to only 47% of Republicans.

While there is no way to say for sure whether Republicans are dying from COVID-19 at a higher rate than Democrats as a result of these discrepancies, there are numbers that suggest so. An ABC News analysis shows that since vaccines became readily available, states that voted for Donald Trump in 2020 had an average of 38% higher mortality from COVID-19 than states that voted for Joe Biden.

The party’s difference in vaccine variability can be traced to a broader change in each country’s attitude toward science.

What happened?

Survey data show that in the 1970s and 1980s, Republicans were consistently more inclined than Democrats to report great confidence in the scientific community.

In the mid-1980s, however, prominent Republican leaders began to be publicly belittled scientific contributions on public policy issues – initially around the debate on acid rainthen expanding to other topics.

Over time, these messages discredited science and the views of scholars on public policy affected public opinion in the parties.

In the early 2000s, parties began to change positions. Since 2008, Democrats have consistently shown greater confidence in science, with the biggest difference in history – 30 percentage points – observed in most recent a study that measures it in 2020

The path from wider mistrust in science to hesitancy towards vaccines may have a long history, but it is quite clear. Scientists are the ones who research and develop vaccines, while scientifically trained doctors and nurses apply them. The most prominent speakers in the media who advocate for vaccination are from the scientific community – most notably Dr. Anthony Fauci. Based on years of rhetoric from party leaders, Republican voters were already prepared to distrust those figures.

Our own research demonstrates that citizens who do not trust scientists and who do not trust medical professionals are less likely to be vaccinated and are less willing to consider it in the future.

As these trends are now more pronounced in the Republican Party than in the Democratic Party, this helps to stimulate the overall party gap in COVID-19 vaccination and mortality among the Red and Blue states.

Although COVID-19 appears to be becoming less and less deadly, experts warn that it is. not the last a viral pandemic that we will face.

Elected officials and other politicians planning future threats would be wise to keep in mind the depth of the continuing guerrilla divide regarding vaccination.

For example, while government and federal officials have undertaken specialized information work to increase the vaccination rate against COVID-19 in low-income and colored communities, specialized work may also be appropriate based on guerrilla affiliation. Moreover, in such popularization, it must be borne in mind that an important obstacle to be overcome among Republicans is the lack of trust in medical professionals in particular – and science in general.

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Provided by The Conversation

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Quote: The role of party affiliation in leading the United States to reach the grim new stage of one million deaths from COVID (2022, May 18), extracted on May 18, 2022 from

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