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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Trump, Vaccines, and Public Opinion

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the issue's role in presidential campaigns.   In this campaign, a number of posts have discussed Trump's support for the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism.   In September, I wrote at The Hill:
Trump is hardly the first politician to spout misinformation – but in this case, it is downright dangerous. If parents take him seriously and delay vaccinations, their children could catch the diseases that the vaccines prevent. And some of these diseases can be deadly.
Betsy Woodruff reports at The Daily Beast:
Republicans are more skeptical of vaccine science than we may have previously realized—and Donald Trump may bear some of the blame.

A new study, conducted for The Daily Beast by a researcher at Washington State University, found a relationship between Republican party affiliation and anti-vaccine sentiment. Survey participants who didn’t plan to vaccinate themselves or their families most often named Donald Trump as a public figure they thought shared their views.

Researchers ran an internet survey of 400 people in the United States on June 29 using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. It’s a tool academics commonly use to survey large numbers of people, including those researching political psychology, consumer behavior, and social psychology. Participants answered one series of questions on their intentions to vaccinate themselves and their families, and another on their political views. Half the participants got the vaccine questions first, and the other half got the political questions first. After answering those questions, participants were asked to name public figures who they thought shared their views on vaccines.

SUNY-Albany marketing professor Ioannis Kareklas and Washington State University Ph.D. candidate T.J. Weber analyzed the data. They found that 25 percent of respondents affiliated with the Republican Party said it was more likely they would not vaccinate themselves and their families than that they would. Meanwhile, 15 percent of respondents who identified with the Democratic Party gave the same answer.

And Trump’s supporters were substantially more likely to have a negative view of vaccines than Hillary Clinton’s. Of the respondents who said they would vote Trump, 23 percent said they were unlikely to get vaccinated. Of the pro-Clinton respondents, 13.5 percent felt the same way.