In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the issue's role in presidential campaigns. In the 2016 campaign, a number of posts discussed Trump's support for the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. He also has a bad record on science and disability issues more generally.
At the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Matthew J. Hornsey and colleagues have an article titled "Donald Trump and vaccination: The effect of political identity, conspiracist ideation and presidential tweets on vaccine hesitancy."
- Trump voters are more concerned about vaccines than other Americans.
- This effect emerges via Trump voters' greater willingness to believe conspiracies.
- Reading Trump's antivaxx tweets increases vaccination concern among Trump voters.
- Trump's antivaxx tweets did not polarize liberal voters into being more provaxx.
Donald Trump is the first U.S. President to be on the record as having anti-vaccination attitudes. Given his enormous reach and influence, it is worthwhile examining the extent to which allegiance to Trump is associated with the public's perceptions of vaccine safety and efficacy. In both Study 1 (N = 518) and Study 2 (N = 316), Trump voters were significantly more concerned about vaccines than other Americans. This tendency was reduced to non-significance after controlling for conspiracist ideation (i.e., general willingness to believe conspiracy theories) and, to a lesser degree, political conservatism. In Study 2, participants were later exposed to real Trump tweets that either focused on his anti-vaccination views, or focused on golf (the control condition). Compared to when the same respondents were sampled a week earlier, there was a significant increase in vaccine concern, but only among Trump voters who were exposed to the anti-vaccination tweets. The effects were exclusively negative: there was no evidence that anti-vaccination Trump tweets polarized liberal voters into becoming more pro-vaccination. In line with the social identity model of leadership, Study 2 indicates that some leaders do not simply represent the attitudes and opinions of the group, but can also change group members' opinions.