The share of adults saying “no” to getting the COVID-19 vaccine dropped 5 percentage points in a month, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll conducted after the Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to Pfizer’s vaccine.
The survey, which was in the field from Aug. 26 through Tuesday, found 19% of U.S. adults now say they do not intend to be vaccinated. That’s down from 24% in a Marist poll from the end of July.
The number of Americans who say they have gotten or will get a COVID vaccine is up to 79%, a 5-point improvement in a month.
“Part of it has to do with the passage of time, part of it has to do with the [FDA] approval,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.
The slight rise in receptiveness to the vaccine also comes as the delta variant has driven a surge of new coronavirus cases, and as an increasing number of employers and universities are mandating vaccination. The decline in people refusing the vaccine was most pronounced in the South and West, where there were double-digit drops in the shares of survey respondents who said they would not get vaccinated.
Those regions have been hit particularly hard by this summer’s delta surge.
“I think that people are hearing more about the difference between whether you are vaccinated and whether you’re not vaccinated in terms of severity and in terms of the incidence of catching COVID,” Miringoff said.
There’s been a drumbeat of messaging about the perils of being unvaccinated. Some who had been vaccine-hesitant cited in surveys the lack of full FDA approval as a reason to hold off on inoculation. But it isn’t clear how big a factor the approval really is.
“I do think it has motivated some, but a lot of other things are happening at the same time with regard to disease and people’s concern about that,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Thursday.
Republicans continue to be the most likely group to reject vaccination, at 37% of poll respondents. Compare that to just 5% of Democrats who say they won’t get a shot.
Bring on the boosters
Among fully vaccinated Americans, the survey found strong support for COVID-19 booster shots, as 81% say they will, or already have, gotten a booster shot, while 19% of vaccinated adults said they don’t plan to get boosters or are unsure.
Last month, the Biden administration announced a plan to provide a third dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine to adults eight months after receiving their second shot. The program would begin the week of Sept. 20, pending an independent review by a CDC advisory panel and the FDA. The plan calls for the earliest booster shots to go to those who were vaccinated earliest on and at highest risk, including health care providers and long-term care facility residents.
There has been some question about whether people will want to get yet another COVID vaccine shot. This poll indicates an overwhelming share of those who are fully vaccinated are ready to roll up their sleeves once again.
Warning signs for President Biden
When it comes to approval of President Biden’s job performance, his handling of the pandemic has always been an area of strength. But this latest survey finds that his approval on the issue has dropped 9 points in a month — a period that has coincided with a surge in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
Still, a majority of Americans view his handling of the pandemic favorably, with 55% approving and 41% disapproving. That is about 10 points better than former President Donald Trump ever saw.
Approval of Biden’s handling of the economy is split 48% to 48%, a slight decline from a month earlier. That doesn’t take into account the monthly jobs report released earlier Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It showed job growth slowed significantly in August. While the unemployment rate fell to 5.2% the labor market only added 235,000 jobs.
That jibes with the reality that the pandemic simply isn’t over and was reflected in another series of questions in the NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll, which found some people changed their behavior last month.
The share of Americans open to dining out at restaurants declined 6 points over the course of August, dropping from 78% to 72%. The share of people ready to board airplanes, trains or other shared transportation also fell slightly to 48%.
No shock here: Partisan divisions remain on masks and mandates
On employer vaccine mandates and requiring masks indoors and at schools, Democrats and Republicans are sharply divided. The partisan gaps extend to whether people feel safe eating out at restaurants.
Support has grown in the past month for employer vaccine mandates, just as more businesses have begun requiring vaccination. The poll finds 50% of U.S. adults support employers requiring vaccination to return to in-person work, while 44% do not. But if you dig into party identification, 82% of Democrats support the mandates, while only 19% of Republicans do (independents are at 45%).
CDC recommendations call for everyone on school campuses, including vaccinated adults, to wear masks due to the transmissibility of the delta variant and the relatively low number of students who are — or even can be — vaccinated.
Overall 65% of adults approve of this policy, according to the survey. However, there’s strong polarization on this issue too, as 91% of Democrats support requiring masks at schools, while only 32% of Republicans do. Interestingly, the poll found that those with school-aged children were less likely to support mandatory masking at schools than those without children at home.
A national indoor mask mandate has support from a majority of adults, 56%. But partisans don’t agree on this either. Eighty-six percent of Democrats think there should be such a mandate, while just 26% of Republicans support the idea.
Democrats were far less likely than Republicans to be open to visiting with family and friends “even if they are not vaccinated,” as the poll put it. Forty-five percent of Democrats said they would visit, while 86% of Republicans were open to such gatherings. Meanwhile, Republicans were more likely to feel safe dining out than Democrats, 83% vs 61%.
The survey of 1,241 adults was conducted Aug. 26 through Tuesday, via landline and mobile telephones. Survey questions were available in English and Spanish. The margin of error of the full sample was 3.8 percentage points. The margins of error for the subsets of Democrats, Republicans and independents were all larger.