A majority of voters support mandatory coronavirus vaccines and indoor mask-wearing requirements, according to a new Morning Consult/POLITICO poll that shows opposition to the requirements is chiefly limited to Republicans.
The survey also found that about half of all voters blame the new wave of infections that have sent numbers spiking equally on the unvaccinated and on political leaders opposed to mask-wearing and social-distancing mandates. About one-fifth of voters said neither is responsible; 14 percent blamed the unvaccinated solely and another 7 percent targeted the politicians.
Conducted as Covid-19 vaccination rates stalled while cases skyrocket — particularly in GOP-heavy Gulf Coast states — the poll points to a clear partisan split in perceptions of government’s role in managing the pandemic.
According to the poll, more than 8 in 10 Democrats and at least half of independent voters want to require vaccinations for all Americans (except those with medical conditions), for employees who work in their area and for those who go to gyms or entertainment venues. But those requirements are supported by roughly 35 percent of Republicans, who form the largest group of unvaccinated Americans.
When it comes to mask mandates, Republican support inches up a few percentage points, but a majority is still opposed while nearly all Democrats and a majority independents are in favor.
The partisan split is on full display nationally as President Joe Biden tussles with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who’s opposing vaccine requirements and prohibiting local governments and schools in his state from enacting Covid mask mandates as cases and hospitalizations reach historic highs. The two may run against each other in Biden’s 2024 reelection campaign. Another Republican governor, Texas’s Greg Abbott, is also opposed to mandatory masking and vaccinations and has also been discussed as a potential White House candidate.
Neither Republican is expected to change course soon.
“This is one of the fundamental divides between the left and right: the role of the federal government and any government. It’s just a clear distinction,” said Dave Carney, a veteran GOP strategist who advises Abbott. “People are getting vaccinated on the right. They just don’t want to be forced to do it, and they don’t want to take away people’s personal responsibility.”
Carney also pointed out that among Black and Hispanic Americans — who tend to vote for Democrats — vaccination rates also trail those of whites overall, which he pegged on missteps by the Biden administration for initially pausing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s reversal on mask-wearing for fully vaccinated people in Covid hotspots.
But throughout the pandemic, many Republican leaders have been more resistant to social distancing and masking requirements and haven’t been as aggressive as Biden in promoting the benefits of vaccines to stop or slow the spread of Covid.
Voters have taken notice and give Biden some of his highest marks in managing the pandemic, with 58 percent rating him excellent or good when it comes to handling the pandemic, the poll shows. Biden’s overall job-approval rating is 51 percent. More voters, 45 percent, trust Democrats in Congress when it comes to handling the coronavirus than Republicans (33 percent). But Congressional Republicans edge congressional Democrats out by 6 and 4 points, respectively, when it comes to handling the economy and jobs.
Ben LaBolt, a veteran of President Obama’s reelection and White House who also advised Biden’s transition team, said ending the pandemic is a key metric for Biden’s success, and he should push harder to require more vaccinations.
“We’ve already seen that when leaders push harder to require vaccines, the rates pick up. And we’re going to need that leadership from all levels to put the pandemic behind us,” LaBolt said. “We know vaccines are the path to solving this problem and ending the pandemic in the long-term, and we can’t allow a hyper-partisan third of the population hold us back.”
Under Biden, the military plans to require all troops to be vaccinated, but the president stopped short of calling for more on Tuesday, although he fretted about the spread of Covid among children.
“I understand that there are millions of people who decided, adults who decided not to get vaccinated. I understand that to badger those folks is not likely to get them to move and get vaccinated,” Biden said. “But I also understand that the reason children are becoming infected is because in most cases they live in low vaccination rate states and communities, and they are getting it from unvaccinated adults.”
Curt Anderson, a Republican strategist who advises a host of Republican senators and elected officials across the nation, agrees that the government can only do so much and recalls an argument he had with a reporter who criticized one of his clients for not doing more to call for vaccinations.
“What planet are you from?” Anderson recalled saying. “Do you think people are sitting around and listening to politicians and celebrities? So people are thinking, ‘J-Lo says it, and now I’m going to take the vaccine?' What the hell? The people who haven’t taken it so far are not gonna see a PSA and suddenly go out and get it.”
Morning Consult is a global data intelligence company, delivering insights on what people think in real time by surveying tens of thousands across the globe every single day.
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