The real reason why Canada and the U.K are beating the U.S on vaccinations
Poll of the week: A new Angus Reid poll from Canada finds that 86% of Canadians 18 and older have gotten or want a Covid-19 vaccine as soon as possible. The same poll shows that just 8% of Canadian adults do not want a Covid-19 vaccination.
This matches what the real-world data is showing us: Canadians are far more driven to get vaccinated than Americans.
What’s the point: Just two months ago, less than 5% of Canadians were fully vaccinated against Covid-19. At the same time, about 40% of Americans were. Today, a little less than 50% of Americans are fully vaccinated, while a little more than 50% of Canadians are.
Among adults, more than 80% of the Canadian population is at least partially vaccinated, while the US has still not reached 70%.
A big reason (though not the only one) why Canada has overtaken the US is pretty clear: Political polarization is playing a smaller role in who is and is not getting vaccinated there. We see a similar phenomenon in the United Kingdom, where more than 50% of the population is also fully vaccinated.
(Note that those ages 12 and above are eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine in Canada and the United States, while, for most, the vaccine-eligible age in the UK is 18.)
In the Angus Reid poll in Canada, 85% of adults who voted for the center-left Liberal Party in 2019 have been at least partially vaccinated. It’s a similar 84% for the progressive New Democratic Party.
Those percentages look similar to what we’re seeing in the US for progressives. In a late June NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, 88% of those who voted for Joe Biden in the 2020 election said they had been vaccinated. A July CBS News/YouGov poll showed that 84% of Biden backers were at least partially vaccinated. A June Fox News poll put it at 81%.
But the difference between the two countries becomes clear when you examine conservatives. Among those adults who backed the Conservative Party in Canada’s 2019 election, a lower 69% had received at least one dose.
Still, that’s far greater than the 52% of Donald Trump supporters who have gotten a dose in an average of the Fox News, Marist and YouGov surveys.
It’s worth noting that the US’ vaccination patterns don’t just differ from Canada’s. They also differ significantly from those of another key ally: the United Kingdom.
When we examine the UK, we see that areas that were more likely to back the Conservative Party in the 2019 general election actually have a higher vaccination rate than areas where that support was weaker.
Specifically, let’s examine the 533 constituencies in England (the most populated part of the United Kingdom) where we have vaccination data through July 18.
In the constituencies where the Conservatives did better than they did in the median constituency, about 90% of all adults on average have had at least one dose. In the constituencies where they did worse than the median, about 83% of all adults on average have had at least one dose.
(This gap holds even when you control for age, even as voting patterns are highly dependent on age in the UK.)
In the United States, the pattern, of course, is reversed and exacerbated. About 74% of the adult population has received at least one Covid-19 dose in the states Biden won and the District of Columbia, which Biden won too. It’s only 59% in the states he lost.
It’s not entirely clear why there is a partisan gap in the US and not in Canada or the UK.
It’s possible that what we’re seeing in the UK is an incumbent effect. That is, the leader in the UK is Conservative Party member Boris Johnson, and therefore Conservatives are more likely to line up behind the leader.
I would point out, though, that Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is a Liberal Party member, and the vaccination gap by party isn’t as wide up there as it is in the States.
Further, the gap in vaccine acceptance in the US was evident even when Trump was president and promoting the idea of a vaccine, so this isn’t just recent anti-vaccine rhetoric from some on the right. With the exception of a period around the 2020 election (when then-Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris and others raised questions about the vaccine approval process), Democrats always said they were more likely to get vaccinated than Republicans in Gallup polling.
To be clear, the partisan gap is not the only reason why the US is lagging. For example, the vaccination rate of those under age 30 is far higher in Canada and the UK than in the US. There are also fewer Black and Hispanic residents in Canada and the UK, who are less likely to get vaccinated in the US.
If the US were similar to these two other countries with regard to vaccination rates by age and race and ethnicity, the partisan gap in vaccines could be larger, because younger and minority groups are more likely to be Democrats.
Either way, the partisan gap is huge in the US compared with two of its closest allies with similar access to vaccines. If it didn’t exist, we’d be in far better shape when fighting the pandemic.
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