(RNS) — In what could be a sign of COVID-19’s influence, some sectors of U.S. society — specifically white evangelicals and Republicans — are showing a growing aversion to the requirement that schoolchildren be vaccinated for illnesses like mumps and measles.Overall, about 70% of Americans say healthy children should be mandated to be vaccinated so they can attend public schools, according to a new Pew Research Center survey released Tuesday (May 16). That is a distinctly smaller percentage from findings in 2019 and 2016, when 82% were in favor of such requirements. The share of the U.S. public who say parents should get to determine not to vaccinate their children is 28%, an increase of 12 points from 2019.
“We are seeing a kind of marked drop in support for school-based childhood vaccine requirements,” said Cary Funk, Pew’s director of science and society research, in an interview. “That drop is particularly coming among Republicans as well as among white evangelical Protestants, many of whom are Republicans.”
The new survey shows that 58% of white evangelicals say there should be a requirement for children attending public schools to be vaccinated, while 40% say parents should be able to choose not to have their children vaccinated, even if that could cause health risks for others. Comparatively, in 2019, white evangelicals favored mandated vaccines for public schoolchildren by a margin of 77% to 20%.
Even though white evangelicals have a growing opposition to such requirements, they remain supportive of measles, mumps and rubella vaccines, Funk said. The report notes that 82% of white evangelicals who are parents of minors say their child has received such vaccines, close to the percentage of the share of all parents who say this (79%).
Funk noted that being “inclined away from school-based vaccine requirements is different than saying that the vaccines themselves are not safe or effective.”
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