Over Three-Fourths of Americans Believe Childhood Vaccinations Should be Mandatory

    NEW YORK , N.Y. – August 26, 2014 – With incidents on the rise for many diseases once considered dangers of the past, the subject of vaccinations has been a frequent topic of conversation in recent days. In fact, strong majorities of U.S. adults favor childhood vaccinations being mandatory for all children (77%), while seven in ten don’t think unvaccinated children should be allowed to attend either public or private schools (69%). What’s more, nine in ten feel it’s important that children be vaccinated (89%) and believe vaccinations should be provided for free to children whose families cannot afford them (90%).

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,306 adults surveyed online between July 16 and 21, 2014.

    For the most part, Americans appear to support such vaccinations – indicating that they’re an important safeguard against diseases which might be brought into our country from abroad (91%), that they are very effective at preventing diseases (89%) and that non-vaccinated children can represent a public health risk (83%).

    Americans also, by and large, recognize that there is at least a moderate danger that an unvaccinated child will contract a disease that vaccinations are designed to prevent (74%). They also recognize that a child contracting such a disease would present at least a moderate danger to other children in their proximity (64%) and such diseases represent at least a moderate danger to a child if they are, in fact, contracted (60%). That said, with only one in four U.S. adults (25%) seeing a great deal of danger in a child contracting a disease vaccinations are designed to prevent, it could be that our years of safety from these afflictions have allowed us to forget the threat such diseases represented before vaccinations for them were developed. What’s more, sizable minorities hold reservations about the safety of childhood vaccines.

    Vaccination concerns

    While over three-fourths of U.S. adults (77%) believe childhood vaccines are either safe (34%) or very safe (43%), roughly two in ten (19%) believe they’re either only a little bit safe (14%) or not at all safe (5%). Perceived safety also decreases among younger generations, with each generation progressively less likely to see vaccines as safe or very safe than their elders (68% Millennials, 76% Gen Xers, 83% Baby Boomers, 92% Matures).

    Looking specifically at one widely publicized – and widely discredited – fear about vaccines, one-third of Americans (34%) believe that some childhood vaccines have been linked to autism.

    Measles outbreaks on the rise

    Just under half (46%) of Americans are aware that the CDC recently announced that measles outbreaks had reached their highest point since 2000, with considerable knowledge gaps observed: two-thirds of matures (68%) are aware of this, compared to 48% of Baby Boomers, 41% of Gen Xers, and 38% of Millennials.

    Among those aware of the rise in Measles cases, seven in ten believe it either very (36%) or somewhat (35%) likely that declining vaccinations in the U.S. have contributed to the increase in Measles cases, while three in ten believe it’s either only a little likely (22%) or not at all likely (7%) that this is the case. Baby Boomers (78%) and Matures (84%) are significantly more inclined than Millennials (64%) or Gen Xers (62%) to see this connection as very or somewhat likely

    Underestimating the need for herd immunity

    Though seven in ten Americans (71%) disagree with the sentiment that, since most children get vaccinated, it’s alright if some parents choose not to vaccinate their children, the three in ten who do agree with this statement (29%) is alarming nonetheless as it overlooks the need to insulate those portions of the population ineligible for vaccines (such as infants and the immune-deprived). What’s more, with Millennials (38%) and Gen Xers (37%) are roughly twice as likely as Baby Boomers (19%) and Matures (14%) to agree with this sentiment, the perception that it is acceptable for some parents to choose not to vaccinate their children is likely to spread and increase.

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    TABLE 1

    PERCEIVED SAFETY OF CHILDHOOD VACCINES

    By Generation, Gender & Parental Status

    Now we’d like you to think about vaccines commonly administered to children (e.g., mumps, measles, whooping cough).

    In general, how safe do you believe vaccines given to children in the United States are?

    Base: All adults

    Total

    Generation

    Gender

    Parental Status

    Millennials (18-37)

    Gen Xers (38-49)

    Baby Boomers (50-68)

    Matures (69+)

    Men

    Women

    Kids <18

    Kids 18+

    No Kids

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Very safe/Safe (NET)

    77

    68

    76

    83

    92

    77

    77

    73

    85

    77

    Very safe

    43

    33

    41

    48

    63

    45

    42

    38

    52

    42

    Safe

    34

    34

    35

    35

    28

    33

    35

    35

    33

    35

    A little bit safe

    14

    20

    16

    11

    5

    14

    14

    18

    10

    13

    Not at all safe

    5

    7

    5

    3

    1

    4

    5

    6

    3

    5

    Don’t know

    4

    6

    3

    3

    2

    4

    4

    3

    2

    5

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding

     

     

     

    TABLE 2a

    DANGER PERCEPTIONS

    Summary Grid

    Still thinking about vaccines commonly administered to children, what do you believe to be the degree of danger for each of the following?

    Base: All adults

    A GREAT DEAL OF/A MODERATE DANGER (NET)

    A great deal of danger

    A moderate danger

    NO/NOT MUCH OF A DANGER (NET)

    Not much of a danger

    No danger at all

    Don’t know

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    The likelihood that an unvaccinated child will contract a disease that vaccinations are designed to protect against

    74

    35

    39

    19

    16

    3

    7

    The dangers to other children if a child in their proximity contracts a disease that vaccinations are designed to prevent

    64

    27

    37

    28

    22

    6

    8

    The danger to a child if they do contract a disease that vaccinations are designed to prevent

    60

    25

    34

    32

    26

    7

    8

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding

     


    TABLE 2b

    DANGER PERCEPTIONS

    Summary of A Great Deal of Danger/A Moderate Danger NET b y Generation, Gender & Parental Status

    Still thinking about vaccines commonly administered to children, what do you believe to be the degree of danger for each of the following?

    Base: All adults

    Total

    Generation

    Gender

    Parental Status

    Millennials (18-37)

    Gen Xers (38-49)

    Baby Boomers (50-68)

    Matures (69+)

    Men

    Women

    Kids <18

    Kids 18+

    No Kids

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    The likelihood that an unvaccinated child will contract a disease that vaccinations are designed to protect against

    74

    68

    71

    79

    85

    69

    79

    69

    81

    73

    The dangers to other children if a child in their proximity contracts a disease that vaccinations are designed to prevent

    64

    62

    57

    67

    73

    61

    67

    62

    66

    64

    The danger to a child if they do contract a disease that vaccinations are designed to prevent

    60

    59

    55

    62

    63

    55

    64

    62

    64

    58

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 2c

    DANGER PERCEPTIONS

    Summary of No Danger/Not Much Danger NET by Generation, Gender & Parental Status

    Still thinking about vaccines commonly administered to children, what do you believe to be the degree of danger for each of the following?

    Base: All adults

    Total

    Generation

    Gender

    Parental Status

    Millennials (18-37)

    Gen Xers (38-49)

    Baby Boomers (50-68)

    Matures (69+)

    Men

    Women

    Kids <18

    Kids 18+

    No kids

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    The likelihood that an unvaccinated child will contract a disease that vaccinations are designed to protect against

    32

    32

    33

    32

    34

    38

    27

    30

    29

    33

    The dangers to other children if a child in their proximity contracts a disease that vaccinations are designed to prevent

    28

    29

    31

    27

    25

    32

    25

    28

    28

    28

    The danger to a child if they do contract a disease that vaccinations are designed to prevent

    19

    24

    19

    16

    13

    24

    14

    24

    14

    19

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding


    TABLE 3a

    VACCINE FACTS AND MYTHS

    Summary Grid

    How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

    Base: All adults

    AGREE (NET)

    Strongly agree

    Somewhat agree

    DISAGREE (NET)

    Somewhat disagree

    Strongly disagree

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Vaccinations are an important safeguard against diseases which might be brought into our country from abroad.

    91

    60

    31

    9

    7

    2

    Free vaccinations should be provided to children whose families cannot afford them.

    90

    59

    30

    10

    8

    3

    It is important that children be vaccinated.

    89

    62

    28

    11

    9

    2

    Vaccines are very effective at preventing diseases.

    89

    51

    38

    11

    9

    2

    Non-vaccinated children can represent a public health risk.

    83

    43

    40

    17

    13

    4

    Childhood vaccinations should be mandatory for all children.

    77

    43

    35

    23

    16

    7

    If a child is not vaccinated they should not be allowed to attend public or private schools.

    69

    33

    36

    31

    20

    12

    Some childhood vaccines have been linked to autism.

    34

    9

    25

    66

    39

    27

    Since most children get vaccinated, it’s alright if some parents choose not to vaccinate their children.

    29

    9

    20

    71

    32

    40

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding

     

     


    TABLE 3b

    VACCINE FACTS AND MYTHS

    Summary of Strongly Agree + Somewhat Agree NET by Generation, Gender & Parental Status

    How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

    Base: All adults

    Total

    Generation

    Gender

    Parental Status

    Millennials (18-37)

    Gen Xers (38-49)

    Baby Boomers (50-68)

    Matures (69+)

    Men

    Women

    Kids <18

    Kids 18+

    No kids

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Vaccinations are an important safeguard against diseases which might be brought into our country from abroad.

    91

    84

    92

    95

    99

    89

    93

    90

    95

    89

    Free vaccinations should be provided to children whose families cannot afford them.

    90

    84

    91

    94

    94

    88

    92

    85

    95

    90

    It is important that children be vaccinated.

    89

    82

    90

    94

    96

    88

    90

    87

    94

    89

    Vaccines are very effective at preventing diseases.

    89

    81

    90

    93

    98

    88

    90

    85

    94

    89

    Non-vaccinated children can represent a public health risk.

    83

    73

    83

    90

    93

    81

    85

    77

    89

    82

    Childhood vaccinations should be mandatory for all children.

    77

    67

    74

    87

    88

    77

    78

    72

    86

    76

    If a child is not vaccinated they should not be allowed to attend public or private schools.

    69

    60

    67

    75

    76

    69

    68

    66

    73

    67

    Some childhood vaccines have been linked to autism.

    34

    37

    42

    33

    18

    35

    34

    42

    31

    33

    Since most children get vaccinated, it’s alright if some parents choose not to vaccinate their children.

    29

    38

    37

    19

    14

    30

    27

    41

    21

    27

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding


    TABLE 3c

    VACCINE FACTS AND MYTHS

    Summary of Strongly Agree + Somewhat Agree NET by Political Party, Born-Again & Metro Status

    How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

    Base: All adults

    Total

    Political Party

    Born-Again

    Metro Status

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    Yes

    No

    Urban

    Suburban

    Rural

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Vaccinations are an important safeguard against diseases which might be brought into our country from abroad.

    91

    94

    92

    89

    93

    90

    88

    92

    91

    Free vaccinations should be provided to children whose families cannot afford them.

    90

    88

    93

    90

    89

    90

    86

    92

    90

    It is important that children be vaccinated.

    89

    91

    92

    88

    87

    90

    87

    91

    88

    Vaccines are very effective at preventing diseases.

    89

    89

    93

    88

    87

    90

    84

    92

    88

    Non-vaccinated children can represent a public health risk.

    83

    84

    87

    81

    81

    84

    76

    86

    84

    Childhood vaccinations should be mandatory for all children.

    77

    77

    84

    75

    76

    78

    73

    81

    73

    If a child is not vaccinated they should not be allowed to attend public or private schools.

    69

    69

    70

    68

    67

    69

    64

    71

    68

    Some childhood vaccines have been linked to autism.

    34

    33

    39

    31

    44

    31

    44

    30

    33

    Since most children get vaccinated, it’s alright if some parents choose not to vaccinate their children.

    29

    23

    28

    30

    37

    25

    38

    26

    24

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding


    TABLE 4

    AWARE OF RECENT MEASLES OUTBREAKS

    By Generation, Gender & Parental Status

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced that Measles outbreaks had reached their highest point since 2000. Were you aware of this?

    Base: All adults

    Total

    Generation

    Gender

    Parental Status

    Millennials

    (18-37)

    Gen Xers

    (38-49)

    Baby

    Boomers

    (50-68)

    Matures

    (69+)

    Men

    Women

    Kids <18

    Kids 18+

    No kids

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Yes

    46

    38

    41

    48

    68

    45

    46

    46

    47

    45

    No

    54

    62

    59

    52

    32

    55

    54

    54

    53

    55

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding

     

     

    TABLE 5

    PERCEIVED RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN DECLINING VACCINATIONS AND INCREASE IN MEASLES CASES

    By Generation, Gender & Parental Status

    How likely, if at all, do you believe it is that declining vaccinations in the U.S. have contributed to the increase in Measles cases?

    Base: All adults

    Total

    Generation

    Gender

    Parental Status

    Millennials (18-37)

    Gen Xers (38-49)

    Baby Boomers (50-68)

    Matures (69+)

    Men

    Women

    Kids <18

    Kids 18+

    No kids

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Very/Somewhat Likely (NET)

    70

    64

    62

    78

    84

    68

    72

    64

    77

    70

    Very Likely

    36

    29

    32

    41

    46

    35

    36

    34

    39

    35

    Somewhat Likely

    35

    35

    30

    37

    38

    34

    36

    30

    39

    35

    At Least A Little/Not At All Likely (NET)

    30

    36

    38

    22

    16

    32

    28

    36

    23

    30

    A Little Likely

    22

    26

    28

    17

    12

    23

    21

    25

    17

    23

    Not At All Likely

    7

    11

    10

    4

    3

    8

    7

    11

    5

    7

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding

     

    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between July 16 and 21, 2014 among 2,306 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

    All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

    Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

    These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

     

    The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

     

    Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

    The Harris Poll #82, August 26, 2014

    By Larry Shannon-Missal, Manager, Harris Poll Content

    About Nielsen & The Harris Poll

    On February 3, 2014, Nielsen acquired Harris Interactive and The Harris Poll. Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence and mobile measurement. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA and Diemen, the Netherlands. For more information, visit www.nielsen.com.