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Majority in Massachusetts Would Likely Get Covid Vaccine If It Were Available Today

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2020 - 6:00 AM Polling Institute

Survey finds that more than one-third of adults would be unlikely to seek the vaccine

Nearly 60 percent of adults said they would be very likely or somewhat likely to get a vaccine to prevent COVID-19 if the vaccine were available today, according to the latest survey from the Western New England University Polling Institute.

The survey of 415 adults, conducted Oct. 22 through Nov. 24, found that 36 percent of adults said they would be very likely to get the vaccine, while 23 percent said they would be somewhat likely.

More than one-third of survey respondents, however, said they would be unlikely to get the vaccine. Twenty-two percent said they would be very unlikely, and another 16 percent said they would be somewhat unlikely. Top reasons for declining to get the vaccine included lack of trust in the approval process and concerns about potential side effects.

Tim Vercellotti, director of the Polling Institute and a professor of political science at Western New England University, said the results suggest that state and local public health agencies and medical experts will need to educate the public about the vaccines as the immunizations become available in the coming months.

"Despite the suffering and deprivation that people may have encountered either firsthand or through the experiences of others during the pandemic, a sizable percentage of the public right now is not convinced about the value of getting a vaccine," Vercellotti said. "Of course, these numbers may fluctuate as the public receives more information and as distribution of vaccines gets underway."

The Western New England University Polling Institute survey, conducted by telephone and online, also found that:

  • 67 percent of all adults and 69 percent of registered voters approved of the job Governor Charlie Baker is doing in handling the state’s response to COVID-19; Baker’s overall job approval was 68 percent among all adults and 70 percent among registered voters;
  • 90 percent said they support their city or town requiring people to wear masks in public places, with the idea receiving backing from 97 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of Republicans;
  • 29 percent said it will take more than a year for daily life to return to the way it was before the pandemic began, and another 20 percent said it will take a year;
  • 64 percent said they are very or somewhat worried about contracting COVID-19;
  • 66 percent said they know someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, and 29 percent said they know someone who has died from COVID-19;
  • When asked to rate the safety of various public activities, even with social distancing and masks required, the activities that sparked the greatest concern were traveling on an airplane, watching a movie in a movie theater, and exercising in a gym or health club, with about two-thirds of respondents rating each activity as very or somewhat unsafe.

The sample of 415 adults has a margin of error of plus or minus five percentage points. The Polling Institute compiled the data through interviews with 105 respondents on landline telephones and with 286 respondents on cell phones. An additional 24 respondents, reached on their cell phones, opted to complete the survey online.

The Polling Institute gathered the data from Oct. 22 through Nov. 24. Announcements regarding successful clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines occurred beginning on Nov. 9. Vercellotti said that survey responses did not appear to shift in a statistically significant way when comparing results from before and after the announcements.

Views on whether to get a COVID-19 vaccine if one were available today varied by gender, race/ethnicity, education, and political partisanship. Men were more likely than women to say they would get the vaccine, with 65 percent of men and 54 percent of women saying they would be very likely or somewhat likely to do so.

Among white non-Hispanic respondents, 65 percent said they would be very or somewhat likely to get the vaccine. Among non-white respondents, which included African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and individuals of two or more races, 42 percent said they would be very or somewhat likely to get a vaccine if one were available today. Fifty-seven percent of non-white respondents said they would be very unlikely or somewhat unlikely to get a vaccine.

Among college graduates, 63 percent said they would be very or somewhat likely to get a vaccine, compared to 57 percent of adults with a high school diploma or less.

Among the 375 registered voters in the sample, 64 percent of Democrats said they would be very or somewhat likely to get a vaccine, as did 63 percent of unenrolled voters. Forty-six percent of Republicans said they would  be very or somewhat likely to get a vaccine, while 49 percent of Republicans said they would be very or somewhat unlikely.

Survey respondents who said they were very or somewhat unlikely to get a vaccine received a follow-up question in which they could state in their own words the top reason for their view. Polling Institute staff coded the responses into categories. The most frequent response was lack of trust in the approval process (29 percent), followed by concerns about side effects (26 percent), wanting to know more about how the vaccine works (14 percent), concerns that the development of vaccines has been too rushed and there has not been enough testing (9 percent), and the view that the respondent did not need a vaccine (8 percent).

The survey also found that most people think it will take a while for life to return to the way it was before the pandemic began, with 29 percent predicting it will take more than a year, 20 percent saying a year, 18 percent stating seven to 11 months, and 16 percent choosing four to six months. Three percent volunteered that life will never return to the way it was before the pandemic began.

More than 80 percent of respondents described the pandemic as a very or somewhat serious problem to them on a personal and community level, and 64 percent said they were very or somewhat worried about contracting COVID-19. Concern about contracting the virus varied by gender and political partisanship, as well as by whether the respondent knew someone who had had the virus or died from it.

Among women, 69 percent were very or somewhat worried about contracting the virus, compared to 60 percent of men. Seventy-six percent of Democrats were very or somewhat worried, compared to 66 percent of unenrolled voters and 32 percent of Republicans. Among respondents who personally knew someone who had been diagnosed with COVID-19, 65 percent were very or somewhat worried about contracting the virus, compared to 59 percent of those who did not known anyone who had been diagnosed with the illness. Among respondents who said they knew someone who had died from COVID-19, 73 percent were very or somewhat worried about contracting the virus, compared to 59 percent of those who did not know anyone who had died from the virus.

Survey respondents also assessed the safety of various public activities with the assumption that participants would be required to obey social distancing requirements and wear masks: dining inside a restaurant; watching a movie in a move theater; attending a service in a church, synagogue, mosque, or other place of worship; exercising in a gym or health club; and traveling on an airplane.

A majority of respondents rated each scenario as very or somewhat unsafe even with social distancing and masks, but respondents viewed some activities as less safe than others. Sixty-five percent said watching a movie in a movie theater was very or somewhat unsafe, with 64 percent saying the same about traveling on an airplane or exercising in a gym or health club. Fifty-six percent said that attending an indoor worship service was very or somewhat unsafe, and 53 percent offered the same view about dining inside a restaurant.

Methodology

The Western New England University Polling Institute conducted a telephone survey using live interviewers Oct. 22 – Nov. 24, 2020. Western New England University sponsored and funded the study.  The survey sample consists of telephone interviews in English only with 415 adults ages 18 and older drawn from across Massachusetts using random-digit-dialing of landlines and cell phones.  The sample yielded 375 adults who said they are registered to vote in Massachusetts. Interviewers at the Polling Institute dialed household telephone numbers, known as “landline numbers,” and cell phone numbers using random samples obtained from Dynata of Shelton, CT. In order to draw a representative sample from the landline numbers, interviewers alternated asking for the youngest adult male or the youngest adult female age 18 or older who was home at the time of the call. Interviewers dialing cell phone numbers interviewed the respondent who answered the cell phone after confirming three things: (1) that the respondent was in a safe setting to complete the survey; (2) that the respondent was an adult age 18 or older; and (3) that the respondent was a resident of Massachusetts. The sample of all adults consisted of 105 interviews completed on landlines, 286 interviews completed on cell phones, and an additional 24 questionnaires completed by cell phone respondents who opted to take the survey online instead of over the phone. The landline, cell phone, and online data were combined and weighted to reflect the adult population of Massachusetts by gender, race, age, education, and county of residence using U.S. Census estimates for Massachusetts. The data also were weighted to adjust for cell phone and landline usage based on state-level estimates for Massachusetts from the National Center for Health Statistics, and political party registration using the most recent statewide voter registration figures from the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth. 

All surveys are subject to sampling error, which is the expected probable difference between interviewing everyone in a population versus a scientific sampling drawn from that population. The margin of sampling error for a sample of 415 adults is +/- 5 percent (rounded up from 4.81 percent) at a 95 percent confidence interval. The margin of sampling error for a sample of 375 registered voters is +/- 5 percent (rounded down from 5.06 percent) at a 95 percent confidence interval. Thus if 65 percent of adults said they approve of the job that Charlie Baker is doing as governor, one would be 95 percent sure that the true figure would be between 60 percent and 70 percent (65 percent +/- 5 percent) had all adults in Massachusetts been interviewed, rather than just a sample.  Sampling error increases as the sample size decreases, so statements based on various population subgroups are subject to more error than are statements based on the total sample.  Sampling error does not take into account other sources of variation inherent in public opinion studies, such as non-response, question wording, or context effects.

Established in 2005, the Western New England University Polling Institute conducts research on issues of importance to Massachusetts and the region. The Institute provides the University’s faculty and students with opportunities to participate in public opinion research. The Institute is a charter member of the Transparency Initiative, sponsored by the American Association for Public Opinion Research. The Transparency Initiative supports greater openness in the reporting of survey research methodology. Additional information about the Polling Institute is available from Dr. Tim Vercellotti, director of the Polling Institute, at polling@wne.edu.