Vaccine-hesitant Americans reject delta variant risk, posing questions for pandemic recovery: POLL

Nearly 30% of U.S. says it hasn't gotten vaccinated and are unlikely to do so.

July 4, 2021, 12:00 AM

Vaccine-hesitant Americans overwhelmingly reject the reported risks of the coronavirus delta variant, posing questions for the nation's pandemic recovery on a Fourth of July the Biden administration has marked as a turning point in the nation's long public health ordeal.

Three in 10 adults in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll say they have not gotten a coronavirus vaccine and definitely or probably will not get one. In this group, a broad 73% say U.S. officials are exaggerating the risk of the delta variant -- and 79% think they have little or no risk of getting sick from the coronavirus.

President Joe Biden, health officials and others have described the variant as more contagious than other strains, and as such a substantial risk to unvaccinated people. It now accounts for more than a quarter of new cases in the country.

See PDF for full results, charts, and tables.

But the government's plan to address it through vaccinations looks to have hit a wall. Just 60% in this survey, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, report having received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. While that's below official estimates (66.8%, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), it confirms the failure to meet Biden's target of having 70% with at least one dose by July 4. And among those not vaccinated, a growing share -- 74%, up from 55% in April -- say they probably or definitely won't get a shot.

Partisan divisions are sharp, underscoring the politicization of the pandemic: Overall just 45% think the government is accurately describing the risk of the delta variant; 35% say it's exaggerating it, with 18% unsure. Several groups are especially likely to say it's being exaggerated, including Republicans (57%), conservatives (55%), evangelical white Protestants (49%) and rural residents (47%).

Even as things stand, emergence from the pandemic is far from complete. More than 15 months after it gripped the nation, just 16% of Americans say their community has recovered fully. Nor is the future assured: While 56% think the country has learned lessons that will help it through the next pandemic, a mere 18% are very confident of this.


Biden, for his part, enjoys broad approval, 62%, for handling the pandemic (including a third of Republicans) -- but that isn't enough to keep him aloft. Just 50% of Americans approve of his job performance overall, a comparatively weak score nearing his six-month mark in office.

Poor ratings on crime and on the immigration situation on the southern border are among Biden's challenges, as is the hyperpartisanship that marks today's politics.

His 50%-42% job approval rating is the fourth-lowest out of the last 14 presidents at about five months in office in polls by ABC and the Post and Gallup previously. Biden's ahead of only Gerald Ford (after his unpopular pardon of Richard Nixon, among other challenges), Bill Clinton (in a struggling economy and with an otherwise rocky start to his presidency) and Donald Trump (who never achieved majority approval). It's an unusually low rating in a time of strong economic growth.

Biden's approval ratings tumble to 38% on crime -- as reported Friday -- and 33% on the immigration situation at the border with Mexico. In partisan terms, 88% of Democrats and independents who lean toward the Democratic Party approve of his job performance overall; 81% of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents disapprove.

Just among party adherents -- excluding independents -- Biden has 94% approval in his own party versus 8% from Republicans, an 86-point partisan gap. That's grown steadily from the Clinton presidency forward, demonstrating heightened partisan divisions the past three decades.

Biden's approval rating is similar to its level in an ABC/Post poll in April, 52%. There are some shifts among groups -- a 16-point drop in approval among Hispanics, a 12-point drop in the Midwest (where this poll finds a larger-than-typical number of Republicans and GOP leaners) and a 7-point drop among liberals. Other slight shifts largely offset these.


Additional results show how partisanship has infected pandemic attitudes and behavior. Ninety-three percent of Democrats say they either have been vaccinated or definitely or probably will do so; that plummets to 49% of Republicans. Independents are between the two at 65%.

Vaccine hesitancy also stands out among Republican-leaning groups, such as conservatives, evangelical white Protestants and less-educated adults. And while Republicans are far less likely to get a shot, just 24% see themselves as at risk for infection.

As the table below shows, many groups that are vaccine hesitant are, at the same time, no more apt to see themselves at high risk of infection, and more likely than others to see the risk of the delta variant as exaggerated.

The survey also shows Black adults, at 79%, are more apt than others to say they either have gotten a shot or will do so; it's 68% among whites and 70% among Hispanics. That's a positive sign after earlier, higher vaccine hesitancy among Black people.

One further result on the pandemic points to the extent of COVID-19 in the United States. Eleven percent report testing positive for it; an additional 12% think they had it but never tested positive. The net total is 23%, notably higher among Republicans and GOP-leaning independents, 31%. Among people who say they never had it, 72% have been vaccinated or likely will do so; among those who know or think they've had it, this declines to 60%.


Lastly, on an unrelated topic, a Supreme Court decision released Thursday shows a contrast between public attitudes on voting access and the court upholding restrictions in an Arizona law. Americans, by a 2-1 margin, 62%-30%, call it more important to pass new laws making it easier to vote lawfully than to create laws making it harder to vote fraudulently.

There are sharp partisan and ideological differences. Eighty-nine percent of Democrats prioritize making it easier to vote lawfully, as do 62% of independents, dropping to 32% of Republicans. (Still, that means a third of Republicans hold this view, which is at odds with the national party's focus on the issue.) Similarly, 86% of liberals and 70% of moderates put a priority on expanding lawful voting, compared with 40% of conservatives.

By race and ethnicity, 58% of whites say it's more important to make lawful voting easier than to make fraudulent voting harder. This rises to 82% of Black people, with Hispanics in between, at 67%.


This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone June 27-30, 2021, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 907 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 percentage points, including the design effect. Partisan divisions are 30-24-37%, Democrats-Republicans-independents.

The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York City with sampling and data collection by Abt Associates of Rockville, Maryland. See details on the survey's methodology here.

Related Topics