Experts explain correlation between vaccine status and political ideology


MADISON, Wisconsin (WMTV) – Is it fair to assume that his political ideology dictates how they handle the pandemic? A UW-Madison political scientist says it’s not that simple. The NBC15 Investigates team delved into the data to see if there is a correlation between vaccination rates and how people voted in the 2020 presidential election.

Does taking a Covid-19 photo and then posting a photo make a political statement? Does wearing or not wearing a mask make it too? Reason aside, the pandemic and politics got mixed up.

“There is definitely a correlation with how people voted in 2020 and whether they get vaccinated or want to be vaccinated, and you can see that on the Wisconsin map,” says UW political scientist Barry Burden.

NBC15 surveys Wisconsin county-by-county vaccination rates. Dane, Door and Bayfield counties have the highest percentage of people who have received a dose of the coronavirus vaccine. These three counties all turned blue in the 2020 presidential election. The counties with the lowest vaccination rates are Taylor, Clark and Rusk counties. These three counties turned red.

“The bluer parts of the state have higher immunization levels, and there is more mask wear and social distancing; these things all go together, ”says Burden.

Burden sees the correlation in his own research. But he says political ideology isn’t the only factor when it comes to how people are handling the pandemic.

“Republican and Democratic voters live somewhat different lives. Democratic voters tend to be in more urban or suburban areas, with higher levels of education, and different types of jobs than those who live in a rural community. And so I think the pandemic was more in the everyday life of Democratic voters. If you live in an area where you interact with strangers in your workplace or on the street then wearing a mask makes more sense and working from home makes more sense. But if you live in a rural community or a small suburb, you know your neighbors, you don’t interact with strangers in crowded environments. Then there will be less worries about masks and vaccines, ”says Burden.

Todd Newman studies the connection between science and society and how this connection dictates human behavior. The political-pandemic correlation does not surprise him.

“We tend to cluster around other people who think like us, who look like us. This is what we want. All of us, whether we are Republicans or Democrats, are biased by the information we receive. We process information in a way that confirms our previous beliefs. We are uncomfortable being uncomfortable. And I think that’s one of the things if there’s anything that comes out of the pandemic that’s going to be helpful, it’s humility, ”says Newman.

There are a few exceptions to the red-less-vaccinated, blue-more-vaccinated trend. Milwaukee County was one of the most democratic counties in the state. Immunization rates are slightly lower than the state average. Burden says this reflects the challenges of responding to a diverse urban population with public health measures, another factor to consider.

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