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The average anti-vaxxer is probably not who you think she is

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes
This is going to hurt a little.
  • Annalisa Merelli
By Annalisa Merelli

Senior reporter based in New York City

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

A middle age, Midwestern man with high-school diploma, low income and a tendency not to think his vote matters much: this is the identity of the average American anti-vaxxer, according to a survey run by real-time consumer insight firm CivicScience. The report assessed participants’ perception of general vaccine safety, safety of childhood vaccines (measles, mumps, rubella) compared to other vaccines (tetanus, flu, shingles), and whether they would allow healthy unvaccinated kids to attend school regularly.

The poll, of at least 2,300 people across America, found that 7% would describe their position as anti-vaccine (compared to 9% from a previous survey of about half the size conducted by the Pew Research Center in early February), with an additional 15% who expressed no opinion on vaccines. Narrowing in on the minority who held negative sentiments toward vaccines, CivicScience extrapolated a series of indicators to help understand their profile. According to their findings, anti-vaxxers appear to be:

  • Men: 56% anti-vaxxers are men and 44% are female (compared to an average population ratio of 49% men and 51% women).
  • Not necessarily parents: Having kids didn’t affect the likelihood of respondents to declare themselves against vaccines.
  • In lower income brackets: People earning less than $25,000 a year are 50% more likely to distrust vaccines.
  • 45 to 54 years old: People in this age group are 26% more likely than any other to oppose vaccinations.
  • Midwestern: Citizens living in the Midwest region appear more likely to have “closeted” anti-vaccine sentiment.
  • Live in rural areas: Rural dwellers are 28% more likely to refuse vaccines.
  • Liberal: 60% of anti-vaxxers describe their political leaning as liberal.
  • Non-college educated: People with a high school diploma as their highest education level are 11% more likely to be against vaccines.
  • Don’t go to doctors: anti-vaxxers are 88%  more likely not to have seen a doctor in the past year.
  • Don’t care about the environment: anti-vaxxers are 30% more likely to be “not concerned at all” about the environment and climate change.
  • Don’t think their votes matter: People who oppose vaccines are 69% more likely to feel like their vote doesn’t matter.

So the Californian, highly educated, wealthy parents who refuse vaccines and have been at the center of the latest measles outbreak may not be the central villain. Neither are conservatives: while Republicans have been more open to legitimizing the positions of people who distrust vaccines, anti-vaxxers are likely not to vote for conservative parties (although they may share with them other anti-science views, such as climate change denial).

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