Despite this summer’s surge of Covid-19 cases linked to the delta variant, most vaccine opponents have not changed their minds about the shots, a new Morning Consult poll finds, with at least a quarter of some states’ residents still refusing to get vaccinated against Covid-19 even as their states face severe outbreaks.
The poll, conducted July 24 – August 23 among an average of 3,334 adults per state, found the state with the highest share of residents who say they won’t get the vaccine is South Dakota, with 33% of residents refusing the vaccine, followed by Idaho (32%) and Alaska (29%).
Rounding out the top 10 most vaccine-resistant states are Oklahoma (29%), Mississippi (26%), West Virginia (26%), Alabama (26%), Montana (25%), Missouri (25%) and Tennessee (25%).
Mississippi, Alabama, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Missouri all showed high rates of refusal in spite of Covid-19 outbreaks in those states this summer that have ranked among the worst in the world, and West Virginia and Alaska are also currently in the top 10 states for number of Covid-19 cases per capita.
For states with particularly large Covid-19 surges, Morning Consult found the spread of the delta variant hasn’t had a huge impact on vaccine refusal: Rates in Florida and Georgia stayed exactly the same between June and August (at 19% and 24% unwilling to get vaccinated, respectively), for instance, while Tennessee’s went down from 26% to 25% and Alabama’s went from 27% to 26%.
Similar trends were seen when the vaccine refusal rate was combined with those who are merely uncertain about the vaccine: Florida’s combined rate dropped from 32% to 30% between June and August, Tennessee went from 40% to 39%, Arkansas went from 43% to 40% and rates in Georgia and South Carolina stayed the same (at 39% and 34%, respectively).
Mississippi and Louisiana, which have faced particularly massive Covid outbreaks, are outliers: Mississippi went from being the state with the highest vaccine refusal rate in June to ranking fifth in August (going from 31% to 26%), and Louisiana went from 28% refusal, the fourth highest rate in the nation, to 22% unwilling to get the shot and not even ranking in the top 10.
What We Don’t Know
How the continued delta surge, rise of vaccine mandates and the recent full approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will affect vaccine refusal and hesitancy rates. Morning Consult’s polling found 30% of U.S. adults said they were either unwilling or uncertain to get the vaccine, down from 32% in June, though that figure is already at odds with public health data showing 74.1% of adults have now gotten at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. That leaves less than 26% still unvaccinated, suggesting more Americans have gotten on board with the vaccine since Morning Consult started their latest round of polling in late July. Recent vaccination data has also shown the number of vaccines administered has been on the rise in light of the delta surge, including in states with large outbreaks and lower vaccination rates. Those vaccinations may be more concentrated among those who have been on the fence about getting the shot yet or hadn’t previously gotten around to it, however, rather than a sign those who were more steadfastly opposed to the vaccine are now changing their minds.
The states and districts with the lowest rates of vaccine refusal, according to Morning Consult’s polling, are Washington, D.C. (10% unwilling to be vaccinated), Massachusetts (10%), Connecticut (11%), New Jersey (11%), Vermont (11%), New York (12%), Rhode Island (12%), Maine (12%), Delaware (14%) and Hawaii (14%).
Vaccine hesitancy and opposition has been an issue in the U.S. throughout the pandemic, and has contributed to the country’s nationwide Covid-19 surge given that cases, hospitalizations and deaths have been largely among the unvaccinated. Morning Consult’s polling is in line with other polls suggesting the groups that are still most opposed to the vaccine are Republicans and younger Americans ages 18-34 (26% and 24% unwilling to get vaccinated, respectively), and 22% of those without college degrees and those earning less than $50,000 annually are also opposed to getting the shot. Unvaccinated respondents were most likely to say that they weren’t getting vaccinated because of fears about potential side effects, followed by concerns the vaccines were developed too quickly. Respondents also cited a distrust in the companies making the vaccines, a general distrust of vaccines, believing the shot won’t be effective and a belief that the risk of them contracting Covid-19 is “too small.”