Trump voters are more likely to be swayed by a political figure endorsing the COVID-19 vaccine rather than factual, scientific testimony by doctors, a new study published in PLOS One suggests.
There have been widespread vaccination efforts in an attempt to return to normalcy in a post-COVID world, but they are hindered by groups who are reluctant to get vaccinated. People are hesitant about the COVID-19 vaccines for a myriad of reasons, but politics have had an extremely polarizing effect. This is a major problem due to the fact that unvaccinated people put other people at risk and increase the chances of the virus mutating, which can reduce the effectiveness of the current available vaccines.
In an attempt to study what would sway people who are opposed to being vaccinated, Christopher T. Robertson and his colleagues collected data from a sample of 387 non-vaccinated Trump voters recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk. They randomly assigned subjects to one of three groups: control (who were not shown a video), Frieden video (who were shown a video of a doctor endorsing the vaccine), or Trump video (who were shown a video of Trump endorsing the vaccine). The subjects were then asked if they intended to get vaccinated and given the choices of ‘yes’, ‘no’, and ‘unsure’ as responses.
The research showed that 35% of the control group and 34% of the group who saw the Freiden video indicated that they would not get vaccinated, which contrasts with the Trump video group, where only 24% indicated they would not vaccinate. Robertson and colleagues used a logistic regression model to compare the responses of ‘yes’ to both ‘no’ and ‘unsure’. This model revealed that participants who viewed the Trump video were 85% more likely to answer ‘yes’ than ‘no’ when asked if they intend to receive the full dosage of vaccines.
This study had a secondary goal of measuring how Trump voters viewed the safety and efficacy of the vaccines. Participants were asked to rate how safe, effective, and likely to end the pandemic they felt the vaccines are on a 5-point scale. Participants who viewed the video of Trump endorsing the vaccine increased the average score of these answers by .3 points, which was a significant effect, while the group who watched the Frieden video showed no significant improvement. In other words, participants who saw Trump endorse the vaccine were more likely to rate it as more effective and safer than participants in the other conditions.
Although this research makes important headway into understanding how to market the vaccine to people who may be reluctant about it, it is important to mention that this study is based on self-reported data about intentions, not actual vaccination information. It is also significant to consider that this study was conducted at a very specific time in Donald Trump’s career, and this may not be generalizable to other or lesser known political figures.
The study, “Effects of political versus expert messaging on vaccination intentions of Trump voters“, was authored by Christopher T. Robertson, Keith Bentele, Beth Meyerson, Alex S. A. Wood, and Jackie Salwa.