N.H. poll: Skepticism high over vaccine

Monitor staff
Published: 10/6/2020 2:10:12 PM

A large number of Granite Staters would be skeptical of taking a COVID-19 vaccine if it were made available today, a University of New Hampshire poll found – even though majorities of New Hampshire residents now know someone who has been infected.

In an online survey of 1,030 Granite State panel members, weighted to match the state’s demographics, just 19% of respondents said they would “definitely” get a coronavirus vaccine today, while 22% said they would “probably” do so.

Larger numbers of the respondents to the “Granite State Poll,” released Oct. 2, said they would not get a vaccine – with 27% saying they would definitely not and 21% saying they would probably not. In all, 49% of voters appear opposed to getting a vaccine immediately.

Eleven percent of respondents were unsure.

The responses come as a complicated and competing set of circumstances have caused both sides of the political aisle to express caution about a hypothetical COVID-19 vaccine, for different reasons.

President Donald Trump has for months promised the quick development and distribution of a vaccine, contradicting some government scientists in the process, who say the timeline for most people to have access to vaccines to be more like mid-2021.

The contradictions have prompted Democrats and left-leaning commentators to voice skepticism over how viable a vaccine distributed this year would be, and whether it would be rushed for political purposes.

On the other side of the political spectrum, Republicans and conservatives have increasingly expressed skepticism of vaccines in recent years, skepticism that has persisted through the COVID-19 pandemic. In the New Hampshire Republican primary for U.S. Senate this year, both hopeful challengers to Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said they either wouldn’t take a COVID-19 vaccine or would take extreme caution in doing so.

The New Hampshire numbers bear that dynamic out.

Respondents who identify as conservative are the least likely to say they would take a COVID-19 vaccine – just 31% would do so, the poll found. Moderates would do so at only a 40% rate.

But even though liberals have the highest likelihood of taking a virus, the poll showed that respondents in that category were still split. Just 51% of self-described liberals would take a vaccine if offered today.

Meanwhile, the eagerness to take the vaccine trends toward the young and old. While 52% of those 18 to 34 said they would take a vaccine now if they could, only 27% of those 50 to 64 would also take that vaccine, the poll found. Yet 49% of those 65 and older would take a vaccine if they could, the poll found.

The survey, which was taken between Sept. 24 and Sept. 28, also measured a milestone: For the first time since May, a majority of respondents say they know someone who has contracted COVID-19. Around 53% say they know someone, a major jump from 34% in May. But that number has been largely stable since July, when 47% of people reported knowing someone who had contracted the virus.

The Survey Center came out with a ranking of how much trust each respondent has in a range of public activities, from going to restaurants to getting a hair cut. Those responses also broke down by party affiliation; Republicans were in every case more likely than Democrats to be comfortable doing each activity than Democrats were.

In general most respondents – 75% – were comfortable going to a barbershop or hair salon. Only 29% of all respondents were okay with going to a movie theater. But the variation between political parties on that latter answer was wide: 61% of Republicans are comfortable going to the movies versus 5% of Democrats.

In between those two extremes, respondents ranked in order of most comfortable to least comfortable: eating indoors at a restaurant, attending church, going to a gym, drinking at a bar, attending a large political rally, going to a large wedding, sitting in a stadium, and going to a concert.

(Ethan DeWitt can be reached at 369-3307, edewitt@cmonitor.com, or on Twitter at @edewittNH.)

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