Republicans in Maryland are more likely than Black residents to refuse a vaccine, according to a new Goucher College Poll released Monday.
The poll found that while Black respondents are slightly more hesitant than white residents to be vaccinated, overall the number of Blacks who said they wanted a vaccine was consistent with overall responses in the state. Mileah Kromer, a political science professor and director of the poll, said the results could speak to the amount of outreach done in the two communities.
“It’s a shame to me that when (former president) Donald Trump did get vaccinated that he didn’t make a big thing of it for Republicans,” said Kromer. “This is a real opportunity for Republican leaders, not necessarily for (Gov. Larry) Hogan and (Lt. Gov. Boyd) Rutherford, who have both already promoted it, but for Republicans in the state legislature and other areas to promote the vaccine. That’s what the Black community has done.”
Questions surrounding who is getting vaccinated and equity in access to the three vaccines have been growing in recent weeks as lawmakers and others point to the low numbers of Blacks and other minorities who have received doses so far.
Hogan and other state officials, as well as many across the country including President Joe Biden, have expressed concerns about vaccine hesitancy especially in the Black community, where there are historical concerns about racism related to medicine and experimentation.
Prince George’s County, with a predominantly Black population, and Baltimore city have the lowest percentages of vaccinations in the state at 10.1% and 14.1%, respectively, according to data released Monday by the Maryland Department of Health.
Overall, 64% of Marylanders polled said they had either had a first dose or would get one when it becomes available. Another 15% said they would wait to see how it works, while 18% said they would not get vaccinated or do so only if required.
The poll released Monday found that 62% of Blacks said they had either received a first dose or would get one when a dose is made available to them. Just 17% of those polled said they would either not seek a vaccination or only do so if it were required. Another 15% said they were effectively undecided and would wait to see how the vaccine worked before making a decision.
“Vaccine hesitancy among Blacks is a real thing, and in October our results shows that, and other nationwide polling showed that, too,” said Kromer. “But in Maryland, the public health leaders as well as a lot of Black leaders in the state have stepped up and encouraged Black people to get the vaccine.”
Compared to whites, Blacks are slightly more hesitant to get vaccinated with 36% of those responding saying they would wait to see how the vaccine works or would not get vaccinated or only do so if required. Among whites, that same number is 31% with 19% saying they wouldn’t be vaccinated unless required to do so.
Meanwhile, 28% of Republicans said they would not seek a dose or would only do so if required — more than twice the rate of Democrats. Fifty-two percent said they had either had a first dose or would get vaccinated once it became available to them, and another 16% said they’d wait to see how it worked.
Overall, rural white men, between the ages of 18-54 who are Republicans, do not hold a college degree and tend to identify their politics as Republican and conservative are more likely than others to refuse a vaccination, according to the poll.
The poll of 725 Marylanders, including 654 registered voters, was conducted Feb. 23-28 and has a margin of error of 3.6%.
The poll also found that Marylanders are not anticipating a quick resolution to the pandemic despite having three vaccines on the market.
“Marylanders are not optimistic for a quick end,” said Kromer. “I think they understand that it’s going to be a while.”
Roughly 39% of those responded said they didn’t think things would return to normal before the end of the year. Another 39% said that might not happen before 2022. Just 3% said they believed life would return to normal in one to two months, and 13% said they expected normalcy by the summer.
Kromer cautioned that the poll is a snapshot in time and could change.
“I do think those attitudes can change if the rollout of the vaccine, if the distribution of the vaccine ramps up. That could change people’s perspectives,” said Kromer. “A lot of these attitudes now just hinge on as many Marylanders as possible getting vaccinated.”
Hogan receives high marks for his handling of the pandemic with 76% of those asked saying they approved or strongly approved of his efforts. Just 22% said they disapproved. Among those who disapproved, 29% identified as a conservative, 28% as Republicans, 27%; as whites and 25% are men.
But some are starting to question the rate at which the state is reopening. Roughly 56% of those surveyed said the pace was about right, roughly the same number as when the question was asked in October. However, 26% of those surveyed said the state is reopening too slowly, up from 16% in October. Similarly, the number of those who said the state was opening too quickly dropped from 23% in October to 15% in February.
Despite Hogan’s approval for his handling of the pandemic, most Marylanders in the poll are not happy with how the vaccines are being distributed.
Forty percent said the state was doing a fair job. Another 26% rated the state as poor, and 25% said the state was doing a good job. Just 7% said the state had done an excellent job so far.
“The vaccine rollout in Maryland isn’t going great, according to Marylanders, but there has been work on other aspects,” said Kromer, referring to efforts to improve vaccination rates in minority communities.
Marylanders are more divided on the issue of reopening schools. Hogan pushed earlier this year for schools systems to implement plans for some in-person learning by March 1.
Roughly 37% of those who responded said that schools were reopening at about the right pace. Another 31% said it was too fast, and 29% said schools were reopening too slowly, according to the poll.