President Joe Biden has urged state governments to make every adult in the United States eligible for a coronavirus vaccine by May 1 in the hopes of getting the nation “closer to normal” by the July 4 holiday. The pace of inoculations in the U.S. has accelerated in recent weeks as states have made vaccines available to larger portions of their populations. At the same time, not all Americans plan to get a shot even after they become eligible.
As the U.S. vaccination campaign ramps up, here are key facts about Americans’ views about coronavirus vaccines, based on surveys by Pew Research Center over the course of the pandemic. This analysis will be updated as new survey data becomes available.
As the United States ramps up its campaign to vaccinate the public against COVID-19, Pew Research Center published this analysis to summarize Americans’ views about getting a coronavirus vaccine and their attitudes about the broader societal effects of such inoculations. All findings are based on surveys conducted by the Center between May 2020 and February 2021.
The bulk of the findings here are based on a survey of 10,121 U.S. adults conducted from Feb. 16 to 21, 2021. Everyone who took part in the survey is a member of Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way, nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology.
Around seven-in-ten U.S. adults (69%) said in mid-February that they would definitely or probably get a coronavirus vaccine, including 19% who said they’d already received at least one dose. The share of Americans who say they would get vaccinated against COVID-19 has fluctuated during the outbreak. In May 2020, the first time the Center asked about Americans’ willingness to get a coronavirus vaccine, 72% of adults said they would probably or definitely get a shot if one were available at the time. That share plummeted to 51% in September 2020 before rising to 60% in November 2020, shortly before the first of several vaccines was approved for use.
The recent increase in the share of Americans who plan to get vaccinated or say they have already received at least one dose aligns with government data showing a steady increase in the share of people who have been inoculated.
Americans ages 65 and older are more likely than younger people to say they would get a coronavirus vaccine and far more likely to say they’d already received at least one dose by mid-February. Among those 65 and older, 85% said in February that they’d definitely or probably get a vaccine, including 41% who said they’d already gotten at least one dose. That was about three times the share of younger Americans who said they’d received at least one dose at the time of the survey.
Among those 65 and older, there were demographic differences in the proportion of Americans who said they’d already gotten at least one dose. For example, around six-in-ten upper-income Americans in this age group (57%) said they’d already received at least one dose, compared with 42% of those in the middle-income tier and 24% of those in the lower-income tier.
Studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found that older adults are at greater risk from the coronavirus. The CDC has also recommended that older Americans be made a priority group as state governments determine vaccine eligibility.
Black Americans have consistently been less likely than other racial or ethnic groups to say they’d get a coronavirus vaccine or already have received at least one dose, but a majority still plan to do so. Around six-in-ten Black adults (61%) said in February that they would probably or definitely get a vaccine or had received at least one dose. That was up from 42% who said in November that they would definitely or probably get a coronavirus vaccine. But the Black share of adults who said they would get a vaccine or had already received one dose was still below the shares of Asian (91%), Hispanic (70%) and White (69%) adults who said the same in the February survey.
Black Americans stand out for their high levels of concern about the coronavirus and the possibility of unknowingly spreading the disease to others.
Among religious groups, atheists are the most likely to say they would get a vaccine or already received one dose, while White evangelical Protestants are the least likely. Nine-in-ten atheists said in February that they would definitely or probably get a vaccine or had already received one. Around eight-in-ten agnostics (80%) and Catholics (77%) said the same. The share was considerably smaller among Black Protestants (64%) and especially White evangelical Protestants (54%). Slightly under half of White evangelicals (45%) said they would definitely or probably not get a vaccine to prevent COVID-19.
Religious affiliation often correlates with party affiliation, but even among Republicans, White evangelical Protestants stand out as less inclined to get a coronavirus vaccine.
Beliefs about the role of community health are strongly tied to intent to get a vaccine, including among religious groups. On balance, White evangelical Protestants are less inclined than people in other religious groups to think that community health effects should have a lot of sway in an individual’s decision to get a COVID-19 vaccine. More in this group say community health concerns should have only a little role or no role at all in individual decisions about getting a vaccine.
Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say they would get a coronavirus vaccine or already have, and the gap between the parties has grown wider in recent months. Around eight-in-ten Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (83%) said in February they would definitely or probably get a vaccine or that they already had received at least one dose. A much smaller majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (56%) said the same. That 27 percentage point gap between Democrats and Republicans was wider than the gap measured at various points in 2020.
Throughout the pandemic, Republicans have been far less likely than Democrats to see the coronavirus outbreak as a major threat to public health. In February 2021, 41% of Republicans described COVID-19 that way, compared with 82% of Democrats. Americans who are less inclined to see the virus as a major public health threat are also less inclined to get a coronavirus vaccine.
Public intent to get a coronavirus vaccine is linked with confidence in the vaccine research and development process, among other factors. Apart from demographic and partisan differences, Americans who have more confidence in the vaccine R&D process are far more likely to get a coronavirus vaccine. In February, 96% of those with a great deal of confidence in this process said they would definitely or probably get a COVID-19 vaccine or had already received at least one dose, compared with just 21% of those who said they had not too much or no confidence in the vaccine R&D process.
Other dynamics play a role, too. For example, Americans who get a flu shot yearly were 39 points more likely than those who rarely or never get a flu shot to say they would get a coronavirus vaccine or had already received at least one dose.
Concerns about side effects and the speed of the research and development process top the list of reasons cited by those who plan not to get a coronavirus vaccine. Among those who said in February that they definitely or probably won’t get a vaccine, 72% said a major reason was that they were concerned about side effects, while 67% said they were concerned that the vaccines were developed and tested too quickly. Around six-in-ten (61%) said a major reason was that they wanted to learn more about well the vaccines work. Smaller shares said they had seen too many mistakes from the medical care system in the past (46%), that they didn’t think they needed a COVID-19 vaccine (42%) or that they didn’t get vaccines in general (36%).
Around three-quarters of Americans see a connection between vaccination efforts and improving the country’s economy. In the mid-February survey, around half of adults (51%) said it would help the economy a lot if a large majority of Americans get a vaccine for COVID-19, while an additional 25% said it would help a little. A similar share (22%) said it would not make much of a difference to the economy. Those who saw the coronavirus outbreak as a major threat to the health of the U.S. population were especially likely to see a connection between the vaccination campaign and the economy.
Around six-in-ten Americans (58%) said in February that the spread of new variants of the coronavirus makes it more important for a large majority of the public to get vaccinated. Around a third of adults (32%) said the new variants did not change their view about the importance of a large majority of the public getting vaccinated, while 8% said the variants made it less important for a broad swath of the country to be vaccinated.
A majority of Americans believe vaccine access should be prioritized in the U.S. instead of in developing countries. Around two-thirds of adults (66%) said in February that the U.S. should ensure that there are enough vaccines domestically even if it means people in developing countries need to wait longer. Three-in-ten said the U.S. should ensure access to vaccines in developing countries even it means people at home need to wait longer.