A poll from Quinnipiac University released last Thursday surveyed the opinions of Texans on a range of issues. One particular eye-opening result was in regard to COVID-19 vaccines. The good news is that a clear majority of Texans (68 percent) said that they either had been vaccinated or planned on getting vaccinated, very close to the goal of 70 percent laid out by the Biden administration. Only 29 percent said that they do not plan to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
However, the poll did reveal sharp partisan divisions in the vaccine attitudes of Texans. Almost half (45 percent) of Republicans surveyed said that they do not plan on getting vaccinated for COVID-19. In comparison, only 28 percent of independents and 13 percent of Democrats said the same.
Anti-vaccine sentiment has long been a problem amongst the fringes of both the left and right. One study found that people at either extreme end of the political spectrum were the most likely to embrace the anti-vaccine movement (the controversial “Horseshoe Theory” posits that the far-left and far-right have more in common with each other than they do with the center). However, the Quinnipiac poll indicates that reluctance to get vaccinated for COVID-19 is much greater on the right than the left and the sentiment is held by more than just fringe elements in the GOP.
It’s not just in Texas, national polling also shows a huge gap in the attitude. One poll found that 41 percent of Republicans don’t plan on getting vaccinated, compared to just 4 percent of Democrats.
It may seem odd that Republicans are unwilling to get a vaccine that former President Trump has tried to take credit for. Yet much of the GOP’s resistance to getting vaccinated has to do with COVID-19 denialism rather than simple vaccine hesitancy.
Trump repeatedly downplayed the severity of the virus, calling it the Democrats’ “new hoax” in the early days and claiming COVID-19 would disappear no less than 40 times. Even as the pandemic killed hundreds of thousands of Americans, Trump and the GOP just doubled down on their cavalier attitude. Many Republicans seem to just not want to admit that the virus is a serious problem by getting vaccinated, believing that to do so would be an admission that they were wrong. Mix this sentiment with a party that is increasingly willing to embrace conspiracy theories and it’s no surprise that so many Republicans don’t want the vaccine.
Unfortunately, the pandemic was politicized from the start. Vaccines, just like masks, appear to be the next public health measure to become a partisan issue. Like with masks, the GOP leadership seems content with feeding their bases worse impulses rather than try to steer them in the right direction on the vaccination issue. Although Gov. Greg Abbott has touted the vaccine, he’s also signed a bill punishing businesses that require proof of vaccination. He’s also ruled out using incentives like vaccine lotteries to encourage people to get their shots.
With the more transmissible and more deadly Delta variant spreading, getting enough people vaccinated is now a more urgent priority than ever. Less than half of Texas’ population is vaccinated and only 40 percent of Texans are fully vaccinated. The state is still vulnerable to a spike in cases of the Delta variant, and unfortunately it will remain that way if the attitude of Texas Republicans stays the same.
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