In The Harris Poll Tracker (Week 84) fielded October 1st to 3rd, 2021 among 2,039 U.S. Adults, we look at religious exemptions for vaccination, the impact of childcare options for working parents, COVID booster shots,the importance of a company aligning with your personal values, and the rise of AI.

As a public service, our team has curated key insights to help leaders navigate COVID-19. Full survey results, tables, and weekly summaries can be accessed for free at The Harris Poll COVID-19 Portal. We will continue to actively field on a regular cadence to track the shifts in sentiment and behaviors as the news and guidelines evolve.

1. Navigating Religious Exemptions

As employers across the country implement vaccine requirements, some Americans are looking for exemptions on religious grounds. So what do Americans think about those looking for religious exemptions to getting a COVID-19 vaccine? Here’s what we found:

  • Are They Legitimate?: Nearly half (48%) say religious exemptions are a legitimate reason to not be vaccinated; including three-fifths (59%) of religious Americans and (43%) of vaccinated Americans.
  • Personal Choice or Dogma?: Two-thirds (65%) agree “A person’s right to ask for religious exemption for the COVID vaccine is a personal choice, regardless if their religious leaders are in favor of vaccination” – including (72%) of Millennials vs only (59%) of Boomers.
  • But some major religions are not in agreement: Last week, The Vatican orderedall employees to be vaccinated and does not currently allow exemptions. And the LDS Church told public officials to not approve religious exemptions for its members.
  • Religion in the Workplace: Nearly three-fifths (58%) of Americans agree “Employers should respect and accept an employee’s religious exemptionrequest without question.”
  • Even though Americans are supportive of exemptions, two-thirds (65%) say most people asking for religious exemptions are just saying it to get out of being vaccinated.
  • Take Andrew Wiggins: the NBA star’s religious exemption request was denied by league officials, leading to Wiggins getting the shot. As he put it, his options were “to get vaccinated or not play in the NBA.”

Takeaway: NPR looks at how employers are navigating the difficult position of granting religious exemptions to an increasing number of workers asking for them. Employers have a difficult task of navigating legitimate concerns for religious reasons versus those who are simply looking for an excuse and will need to balance privacy and boundaries.

2. The Fractured Childcare System: Yahoo Finance-Harris Poll

In a recent survey with Yahoo Finance, we surveyed working parents with children under the age of 18 to see how current childcare options influence their current employment situation. Here’s what we found:

  • Nearly three quarters (71%) of working parents with kids under 18 say managing childcare decisions is overwhelming.
  • What’s more, three-quarters (76%) of working parents agree that their child(ren)’s childcare needs are very influential on their current employment situation, such as employment status, choice of employer, and hours or availability: (67%) of moms and (79%) of dads agree.
  • Two-thirds (68%) percent of working parents said they would be more likely to accept an offer of employment from an employer that offers flexible scheduling for childcare needs, with another (62%) saying they would be more likely to accept based on the offer of a monthly child care stipend.
  • Three in five (62%) of working parents said they would be more likely to accept an offer of employment based on free onsite daycare. Comparatively, only about half (53%) said they would be more likely to accept the offer if onsite daycare was offered for a fee.
  • The LA Times writes more about the woes of childcare in the U.S. after the September Treasury Department report was released.

Takeaway: The childcare crisis in the U.S. is disproportionately affecting working moms, and companies should work on filling the widening gap of lack of childcare services and perks offered in order to get workers back in the market.

3. Vaccinated Americans Are Ready for Their Boosters

In our latest wave of the COVID Tracker, we check back in with vaccinated Americans now that booster shots are recommended for certain at-risk cohorts. Here is what Americans are thinking:

  • Likelihood of vaccinated Americans to get a booster shot remains high: As noted in our Axios story, vaccinated Americans are on board with booster shots: (84%) say they are likely to get one once it becomes available to them (61% very likely, 23% somewhat likely).
  • More than two-thirds (68%) of those likely to get a booster shot say they would be very or somewhat comfortable getting a booster shot that was made by a different manufacturer than their initial dose if U.S. health officials said it was okay to mix brands.
  • Younger Americans are significantly more likely to be comfortable with hypothetically mixing vaccine manufacturers: (85%) of vaccinated Millennials and (75%) of vaccinated Gen Zers agree, compared to just (55%) of Boomers.
  • Among vaccinated Americans who are not likely to get a booster shot (16%), four-in-ten (43%) say they don’t think a booster is necessary in general, while (29%) say they feel like they’ve already built up immunity from the initial vaccination.

Takeaway: Many vaccinated Americans are still concerned about breakthrough cases and boosters will be a potent weapon in bolstering consumer confidence to return to social activities such as travel, large events, and dining out.

4. Personal Values and the Workplace: Integral-Harris Poll

The Harris Poll partnered with Integral to conduct a survey among employed Americans to better understand the perceptions about varied societal and political topics and how well organizations were making a difference on those values. The full Integral Employee Activation Index can be downloaded for further insight. Here are are a few key insights:

  • A positive daily mindset: Two-fifths of employees whose organization reflects their personal values say they feel confident (43%) or grateful (41%) compared to just (11%) who say they are tired – or underappreciated (5%). 
  • Driving positive actions: Four in five (83%) employees say they feel like the alignment of values with their employer makes them want to stay through challenging times, or go the extra mile (82%).
  • Cultivating company culture: Alignment of personal beliefs with one’s company also leads to positive feelings towards company culture with nearly half (47%) saying their colleagues felt supportive, (40%) safe, and (36%) purposeful.

Takeaway: A deeper understanding of employees across a variety of factors will help organizations gauge employee values and sentiment which can be used to more accurately map business decisions and communications to drive employee actions, perceptions, and engagement.

5. AI: The Leader of Digital Transformation: Appen-Harris Poll

The Harris Poll partnered with Appen on a survey to provide insights for the 7th edition of their annual State of AI report that explores the strategies employed by companies in successfully deploying AI. Here are some key takeaways:

  • AI budgets have increased: Budgets from $500k to $5M have increased by 55% year-over-year, with only a quarter (26%) reporting budgets under $500k, signaling broader market maturity.
  • An overwhelming majority of organizations have partnered with external training data providers to deploy and update AI projects at scale, including (90%) of small, (92%) of medium, and (85%) of large enterprises.
  • Companies report a high commitment to data security and privacy with (91%) of companies who use external data providers reporting good or excellent ratings for their companies when it comes to addressing privacy or security issues related to AI.
  • Enterprises of all sizes confirmed they accelerated their AI strategy as a result of COVID-19 in 2020 and (61%) of small, (70%) of medium, and (69%) of large enterprises saying they will continue to do so in 2021.
  • Harvard Business Review writes more on our study with Appen.

Takeaway: The AI industry continues to grow rapidly year-over-year, to the point where organizations that haven’t yet invested in their own AI initiatives are at risk of being left behind.

Download the Data

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by The Harris Poll from October 1 to 3, among a nationally representative sample of 2,039 U.S. adults.

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John Gerzema


Download the Data

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by The Harris Poll from October 1 to 3, among a nationally representative sample of 2,039 U.S. adults.


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