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Poll: Most Americans Reject Religious Exemption From Vaccine Mandates

Majorities of Americans across all major religious denominations believe there is no legitimate religious basis to object to getting vaccinated against COVID-19, new public opinion research shows, yet religious objections to vaccine mandates remain a popular and effective way for vaccine-hesitant individuals to avoid the shots.

Just over one in ten Americans say getting a COVID-19 vaccine would violate their religious beliefs, according to a Public Religion Research Institute and Interfaith Youth Core survey released in December, while 60 percent agree that there are "no valid religious reasons to refuse a COVID-19 vaccine."

Meanwhile, 59 percent of Americans told the pollster they thought too many people were using religion as an excuse to avoid COVID vaccines, and just under half (47 percent) of respondents went so far as to endorse eliminating all requests for COVID vaccine exemptions on religious grounds.

As with most matters pertaining to the pandemic, however, Americans' opinions were split along partisan lines. A total of 20 percent of Republicans indicated that getting vaccinated against COVID-19 went against their personal religious beliefs, compared to just seven percent of Democrats. Among those who said they got their news primarily from far-right outlets like OAN and Newsmax, known for amplifying anti-vaccine content, the number with religious objections jumped to 41 percent.

Unsurprisingly, those who've refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19 expressed the strongest opinions in support of religious exemptions: 52 percent in that group indicated the COVID shots violated their personal religious beliefs, and just over three in ten said they have already asked or planned to request a religious exemption to a vaccine requirement.

As the American Independent Foundation was among the first to report, religious exemptions stand as one of the few legal avenues for vaccine objectors to avoid vaccine mandates. When more employers and government entities began requiring vaccines, some vaccine skeptics turned to online marketplaces to purchase such exemption request letters, the investigation showed.

In October, the Biden administration moved to tighten the rules relating to religious vaccine exemptions, with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission formally noting that employers could reject exemption requests if granting unvaccinated employees' accommodations would place an "undue burden" on their workplace.

Yet in recent weeks, several Republican-led states have enacted new policies making it easier for religious objectors to avoid vaccination. In Kansas, lawmakers approved a measure that requires employers to grant any request for a religious exemption to a COVID-19 vaccine mandate so long as the request was submitted in writing. In Utah, lawmakers went even further, enabling objectors to dodge vaccine mandates based on any "sincerely held personal beliefs," even if those beliefs aren't tied to a specific religious identity.

Yet the issue of religious exemptions is hardly settled law. On Monday, for example, the Supreme Court declined to block a vaccine mandate for New York health care workers even though the policy didn't allow for religious exemptions.

No major religious denomination or sect directs its members to resist COVID vaccines, and in fact, many spiritual leaders have been among the most vocal advocates encouraging vaccination. Pope Francis has called getting vaccinated against COVID-19 an "act of love," while several Catholic leaders across the U.S. have formally instructed priests not to grant religious exemption requests.

But the practice remains popular, with growing numbers of U.S. service members, health care workers, city staff, and private employees seeking exemptions as a means of bypassing mandates.

The poll showed that majorities of Americans did endorse granting exemptions for those who have refused other vaccines in addition to COVID, those who belonged to a religious sect known to ban vaccination, and those who had a letter from their religious leader attesting to their beliefs against vaccines. Only 39 percent of Americans said anyone who simply says vaccines violate their beliefs should get one, though 57 percent of Republicans indicated they supported that view.

The PRRI-IYC poll was conducted online from October 18 through November 9, included responses from 5,721 Americans 18 and older across all 50 states, and had a margin of error of plus or minus 1.7 percentage points.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Poll: Most Republicans Want Trump To Run Again, But Most Americans Don't

A new poll suggests a majority of Republicans want former President Donald Trump to try for the White House again in 2024 — but the vast majority of Americans do not.

A national survey of adults released Thursday by Marquette Law School found that by a 60 percent to 40 percent margin, those who identify as Republicans would like Trump to run in the next presidential election. But overall, just 28 percent of those surveyed want to see another Trump campaign, versus 71 percent who do not.

The poll results show 73 percent of independents and 94 percent of Democrats oppose Trump running again.

While 73 percent of Republicans say they have a favorable view of the one-term president, just 32 percent do overall — and 65 percent of Americans hold an unfavorable opinion of him.

This puts him well below President Joe Biden, whose rating in the poll is at 45 percent favorable, 49 perecent unfavorable, and six percent unable to give a rating. The survey puts Biden's overall job approval rating at 49 percent.

This survey comes as Trump is hinting he will mount another presidential campaign. On November 8, he told Fox News, "I am certainly thinking about it and we'll see. I think a lot of people will be very happy, frankly, with the decision, and probably will announce that after the midterms."

He boasted that "a lot of great people who are thinking about running are waiting for that decision, because they're not going to run if I run."

After winning in the Electoral College in 2016 despite getting three million fewer votes than Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, Trump badly lost both the popular and the electoral votes in 2020.

Biden won 306 of the 538 electors, a margin Trump himself deemed a "landslide" four years earlier when it went in his favor, and received over seven million votes more than the incumbent.

Days after plotting to overturn the election results and egging on supporters who then rioted at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, Trump left office on January 20 with a historically low approval rating of 29 percent.

He has spent much of the time since then falsely claiming the election was stolen from him and threatening retribution against his political enemies — a strategy that does not appear to have improved his national popularity.

After Republican Virginia gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin narrowly won earlier this month, Trump claimed credit for the result. "I would like to thank my BASE for coming out in force and voting for Glenn Youngkin," he wrote. "Without you, he would not have been close to winning. The MAGA movement is bigger and stronger than ever before." Trump had endorsed Youngkin, but the two had not campaigned together.

Trump faces a number of legal issues between now and the next election. His company is under criminal indictment on tax fraud charges in New York; a select House committee is investigating the Capitol insurrection and his administration's possible involvement; and Congress is still working through the federal courts to obtain his tax returns.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Pandemic Wasn't Top Priority In Virginia, Exit Polls Show

Virginians who voted in Tuesday's gubernatorial election were less concerned about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic than other issues facing the state, according to exit polling.

Republican Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin pulled off an upset victory in the state, which President Joe Biden carried by 10 points last year.

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Congress Finds Trump Food Program Was Mismanaged And Exploited For Partisan Gain

Around the time then-President Donald Trump's administration launched the $6 billion "Farmers to Families Food Box Program" in April of 2020, Trump's daughter and senior White House advisor Ivanka Trump lauded the initiative as a victory for small American farmers and those families struggling with hunger in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Ron Johnson Caught Lying About Vaccine Safety And Efficacy

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) repeatedly questioned the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in a Fox News appearance over the weekend.

The vaccines are safe and highly effective at preventing hospitalization and death from the virus.

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Why Abbott’s Ban On Vaccine Mandates Is Likely Doomed In Court

On Monday afternoon, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott set his state on a collision course with President Joe Biden's COVID-19 vaccine requirements, issuing an executive order banning any business that operates in the state from requiring employees to get the shots.

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Vaccination Rates Rising In Hardest-Hit Red States

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

A growing number of Americans now view the COVID-19 pandemic with a pessimism not seen since the start of this year, new polling shows, as uncontrolled coronavirus Delta variant spread has led to record hospitalizations in states with low vaccination rates and fears persist about even worse virus mutations that could be on the horizon.

But it's not all bad news: Vaccinations are on the rise and skepticism is falling among key groups of vaccine holdouts, government data and public opinion research show.

"We are seeing results," White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeffrey Zients said in a press briefing Thursday, pointing to record vaccination rates over the past several days not matched since early July.

"Importantly, we're seeing the most significant increases in the states with the highest case rates," Zients added, noting that vaccinations in some key states are taking place "at a pace not seen since April."

Numerous factors account for this increase in vaccinations, as more Americans learn about the dangers of remaining unvaccinated and a growing number of employers are now mandating the shots. And experts highlight another key driver of shifting vaccine behaviors: Republican politicians and right-wing media figures.

Research thus far has primarily focused on how GOP figures' anti-science rhetoric trickles down to their voters. A recent study from the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania found that those who said they relied predominantly on conservative media outlets had much less confidence in health authorities providing trustworthy information about the pandemic.

A 2020 study from Matt Motta, assistant professor of political science at Oklahoma State University, found that individuals' professed intention to receive the COVID vaccine shifted based on cues from their political leaders.

When Democratic leaders expressed hesitation about the vaccine, as then-Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) did in a debate with former Vice President Mike Pence towards the end of her campaign, Democratic voters followed suit, Motta's research showed.

Republican voters, meanwhile, have supported vaccination at consistently lower rates than Democrats, as their leaders continued to downplay the severityof the pandemic. Today, just 51% of Republicans say they've received one COVID shot, compared to 92% of Democrats.

"We're in this position now where, to I think a great degree, Republican politicians have cast doubt on vaccines, have cast doubt on the virus's origins, and Republicans in the public have followed suit," Motta explained in an interview with the American Independent Foundation last month.

But Motta added that this presents an opportunity for those GOP leaders to make a tremendous impact by promoting vaccination.

"If you can get Republican [leaders] to stand up for science, to stand up for public health, to stand up for vaccines, you're going to have an easier time convincing Republicans in public to do the same," Motta said.

Polling conducted by Morning Consult appears to show this phenomenon in action. Amid a sea of criticism over their frequent anti-vaccination comments, some Fox News hosts last month began to shift their tone, promoting the safety and efficacy of COVID vaccines to their viewers.

As that shift took place, vaccine hesitancy rates among Fox viewers fell, the polling showed. This week, the share of Fox viewers who expressed hesitancy about getting a vaccine fell to an all-time low of 27 percent, down 10 percentage points from March.

A similar trend appears to be taking place among GOP politicians. While many Republican leaders have maintained stringent opposition to public health measures, others have started to change their tune. Vaccination rates in some red states, meanwhile, have begun to tick up — possibly demonstrating that voters do indeed listen to their leaders.

While many celebrate this GOP shift in messaging on vaccines and public health more broadly, some have called out the hypocrisy of leaders now touting something that they demonized for months. Some Fox personalities continue to spread misinformation about vaccination.

But advocacy for vaccinations from all sources is vital to reaching the end of the pandemic, experts say.

"We need the hypocrisy to get over this. We need people to change their minds and to convince others to do the same," Motta said.

"And if that makes people a hypocrite, fine, but it's how we're going to get out of this."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Poll: Unlike Other Americans, Republicans Increasingly Reject Science


Reprinted with permission from American Independent

New polling released Friday by the public opinion research firm Gallup finds that Republicans are far less confident in science than they were four decades ago, posing a major challenge to the ongoing campaign to get Americans vaccinated against the Coronavirus.

A total of 64 percent of Americans told Gallup they have "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in science, down slightly from the 70% of Americans who said the same thing in 1975, the last time the organization asked the question.

But that small drop in confidence overall comes almost entirely from changes in Republican responses: Just 45 percent of Republicans say they're confident in science today, compared to 72 percent who said they were confident 46 years ago.

Democrats, meanwhile, report an increase in confidence in science, with 79 percent saying they're confident today versus 67% in 1975. The 2021 poll was conducted among a random sample of 1,381 American adults from June 1 through July 5, with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

Gallup notes that this 34-point difference in confidence between Republicans and Democrats is among the largest partisan gaps measured for any of the U.S. institutions they asked about, exceeding that of newspapers (27 points), organized religion (25 points), and the military (16 points).

Only the partisan split on confidence in the police and the presidency were greater, with Republicans' confidence in the police 45 percentage points higher than Democrats', and Democrats' confidence in the presidency 49 points higher than Republicans.'

Gallup's finding comes at a time when White House officials and public health professionals are raising the alarm on vaccine misinformation. Speaking from the White House briefing room Thursday, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy decried misinformation about the Coronavirus vaccine as an "imminent and insidious threat to our nation's health," releasing a 22-page advisory in which he said responding to it was a "a moral and civic imperative."

In recent weeks, Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations have been back on the rise, as the highly infectious delta variant spreads. Those who have been infected are overwhelmingly unvaccinated individuals, according to experts, with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky saying last month that adult deaths from Covid-19 are "at this point entirely preventable" thanks to vaccines.

Still, misinformation about the safety and efficacy of those vaccines continues to proliferate, primarily on social media and right-wing television. Hosts on channels like Fox News and Newsmax have repeatedly undermined vaccine safety and critiqued the Biden administration's vaccination campaigns.

Studies have found a gap in vaccination rates between counties that supported former President Trump in the 2020 election and those that supported President Biden, with July data showing 47 percent of those living in Biden-supporting counties were fully vaccinated compared to a 35 percent vaccination rate in counties that broke for Trump.

Though numerous factors impact the rate of vaccination in a given county, experts point to misinformation on right-wing media as a key component of the partisan vaccination gap.

"If you have constant exposure to an outlet that is raising vaccination hesitancy, raising questions about vaccinations, that is something to anchor you in your position that says, 'I'm not going to take the vaccine,'" Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.