More than a year and a half into the COVID pandemic, and Americans are more polarized on opinions of the virus and mitigation strategies than ever, according to data from Quinnipiac polling.
In April of this year, just as many Americans were lining up for their first dose of vaccines, majorities of Republicans said they opposed businesses and universities from requiring a COVID vaccine for their employees or students, while solid majorities of Democrats supported such actions.
Today, that gap between Democratic support and Republican opposition has widened even further.
For example, in mid-April, Republicans' net disapproval of universities requiring a vaccine was 43 points (27 percent support vs. 70 percent oppose). Democrats had a net approval of 62 points (79 percent support vs. 17 percent oppose). By early August, however, those views had hardened. Republicans were a net 20 points more opposed to mandates while Democrats were net 13 points more supportive.
A similar, but not as dramatic, hardening happened on the issue of businesses mandating that their employees get vaccinated. Since April, Republicans have become a net 7-points more opposed while Democrats have become net-14 points more supportive.
Among independents, a majority continue to be opposed to these mandates. But, that opposition has lessened since the spring. For example, since April independent voters have become a net 7-points more supportive of businesses requiring vaccines and a net 8-points more supportive of universities requiring the COVID vaccine. Plus, independent voters are much more concerned about the Delta variant than Republicans. The August Quinnipiac poll found that while only one-third of Republicans were worried about the new variant, 56 percent of independents said they were concerned. In other words, independents see more risk in COVID and may be more willing to accept interventions.
For a politician looking to secure and motivate his or her base, the battle over COVID mandates is an appealing option (see; GOP Governors Greg Abbot (TX) and Ron DeSantis (FL). But, pay attention to movement from independents. While they continue to side with Republicans on opposition to mandatory vaccines, their opposition is more malleable than those of GOP base voters.
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