[guest post by Dana]
As we know Trump voters have been reluctant to get the vaccine for COVID. A significant percentage of them in fact:
At the same time, a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll found that a full 50 percent of unvaccinated 2020 Trump voters now say they will “never” get vaccinated for COVID-19, up 6 percent from last month.
According to the survey of 1,629 U.S. adults, which was conducted March 4-8, no other unvaccinated group is nearly as likely to say they will “never” get inoculated: not Biden supporters (8 percent), not Black Americans (33 percent) and not Hispanic Americans (22 percent), all of whom have moved in the opposite direction and become less hesitant over time.
Having been influenced by Trump, whose history with COVID we don’t need to re-litigate, it makes sense that they are skeptical of the vaccine. But. A recent focus group comprised of Trump voters explained what they needed to see to convince them to take the vaccine:
Be honest that scientists don’t have all the answers. Tout the number of people who got the vaccines in trials. And don’t show pro-vaccine ads with politicians — not even ones with Donald Trump.
That’s what a focus group of vaccine-hesitant Trump voters insisted to politicians and pollsters this weekend, as public health leaders rush to win over the tens of millions of Republicans who say they don’t plan to get a coronavirus shot. If those voters follow through, it would imperil efforts to achieve the high levels of immunity needed to stop the virus’s spread in the United States, experts fear.
“These people represent 30 million Americans. And without these people, you’re not getting herd immunity,” said Frank Luntz, the longtime GOP pollster who convened Saturday’s focus group over Zoom. The group followed what Luntz characterized as a remarkable arc: By the end of the two-hour-plus session, all 19 participants (one dropped out early) said they were more likely to get vaccinated, and Luntz said he had begun nationwide polling to see which messages resonated with a broader population.
Participants were adamant: They all believed the coronavirus threat was real, with many having contracted it themselves or aware of critically ill friends and family, and they didn’t want to be condemned as “anti-vaxxers” who opposed all vaccines. Instead, they blamed their hesitation on factors like the unknown long-term effects of new vaccines, even though scientists have stressed their confidence in the products. They also accused politicians and government scientists of repeatedly misleading them this past year — often echoing Trump’s charges that Democrats used the virus as an election-year weapon and overhyped its dangers. Several said that recent political appeals to get the shot were only hardening their opposition.
A few comments from the focus group:
“We want to be educated, not indoctrinated,” said a man identified as Adam from New York, who praised the vaccines as a “miracle, albeit suspicious.”
A woman identified as Sue from Iowa said she feared political “manipulation” of the vaccines, even though she had been a pharmacist for Merck, one of the drug companies helping to produce a vaccine. “I know their vaccines are good products, I trust them,” Sue added. “What I don’t trust is the government telling me what I need to do when they haven’t led us down the right road.”
Focus group members also said that they were annoyed by a public service announcement with former Presidents Carter, Bush, Clinton, and Obama. They referred to the PSA as “propaganda” made by “bad actors”.
Cue Trump. Today, while it wasn’t an official public service announcement, Trump told Maria Bartiromo in a telephone interview that everyone should get vaccinated:
“I would recommend it, and I would recommend it to a lot of people that don’t want to get it.”
Trump noted “a lot of those people” who don’t want the vaccine “voted for me, frankly. But … again, we have our freedoms, and we have to live by that, and I agree with that also. It’s a great vaccine, it’s a safe vaccine and it’s something that works.”
[I find it a bit curious that Trump, who has been out of office for two months, waited until today to recommend that his supporters get the shot…]
Last night President Biden was asked whether he thought it would help increase vaccinations if Trump encouraged his supporters:
“Should President Trump help promote the vaccine amongst skeptics, sir? Especially those Republicans who say that they’re not willing …” a reporter at the White House asked Biden at the end of an event Monday.
“I’m hearing a lot of reports from serious reporters like you saying that. I discussed it with my team, and they say the thing that has more impact than anything Trump would say to the MAGA folks, is what the local doctors, what the local preachers, what the local people in the community say,” he responded. “So, I urge all local [doctors] and ministers and priests to talk about why it’s important to get that vaccine, and even after that, until everyone is, in fact, vaccinated to wear this mask.”
Jen Psaki strained to explain how a Democratic president could reach a reluctant MAGA crowd about the vaccine:
When pressed about what the Biden White House was doing to reach out to Americans across the aisle, Psaki on Monday stressed that his goal is to vaccinate all Americans “not just those who voted for him.”…
“One of the steps we’ve taken, and we can effectively do outside of any partisan politics is ensure that there are locations with trusted, interested locations, community health centers, pharmacies, where anybody of any political persuasion can get the vaccine, and they don’t need to wear a Joe Biden sticker in order to do that,” Psaki said.
And about whether Trump should encourage supporters to get vaccinated, Psaki offered this pointed comment:
“Every other living former president … has participated in public campaigns, they did not need an engraved invitation to do so. So, he may decide he should do that. If so, great,” Psaki said. “But there are a lot of different ways to engage, to reach out, to ensure that people of a range of political support and backing know the vaccine is safe and effective.”
Note: a day earlier and offering a decidedly different opinion than that of President Biden, Dr. Fauci said that it would indeed make a big difference if Trump encouraged Republicans to get the vaccine:
A day earlier, Fauci said he wishes Trump would use his influence over supporters to encourage them to get the vaccine, saying it would “be a game changer” during an appearance on Fox News Sunday.
“It seems like an intrinsic contradiction, the fact that you had a program that was started during his presidency and he’s not out telling people to get vaccinated. I wish he would. He has such an incredible influence over people in the Republican Party,” Fauci said. “It would really be a game changer if he did.”
After Trump’s “PSA” this morning, we’ll see if Fauci is right. (I sure hope he is!)