Atheists support vaccines – well, most Americans support MMR vaccine

A new survey of Americans showed that they are overwhelmingly in favor of vaccines across all demographic groups. But atheists support vaccines more than any other religious designation.

Of course, this article isn’t really about how much atheists support vaccines, although that should be expected, given the fact that most atheists follow evidence rather than faith or beliefs. This article is going to review the detailed survey because if you’re anyone but Del Bigtree or Robert F Kennedy Jr, you’ll be fascinated to know that the vast majority of Americans support the MMR vaccine.

The poll

The Pew Research Center polled Americans in early October 2019 about their attitudes toward the MMR vaccine and compared it to a similar poll from 2016. Despite the fear, uncertainty, and doubt pushed via lies and misinformation by the anti-vaccine zealots, not much has changed. In fact, it appears that Americans are even more supportive of the vaccine.

The top-level stats show that around 88% of Americans believe that the benefits of the MMR outweigh any risks. This is the same as in 2016.

However, the next piece of data is even more interesting. About 90% of Americans believe that the MMR vaccine has very high, high, or medium preventative health benefits as compared to about 91%, just a slight dip, although the number who believe it has very high or high benefits has increased from 73% in 2016 to 77% in 2019.

Maybe all of us who are fighting against that anti-vaccine disinformation campaign is having a benefit.

Furthermore, those who believe that the MMR vaccine has a low or very low risk of side effects has increased from 67% to 70% from 2016-2019. Of course, the science, which requires zero belief, shows us that the MMR vaccine is not linked to autism, one of the large concerns about the vaccine. 

More poll data

There’s also some more valuable and interesting next-level information from the Pew Research Center poll.

This data is also interesting:

  • Boomers support mandatory vaccines (defined as “healthy children should be required to be vaccinated to attend public school because of potential health risks to others”) more than Gen X or Millenials. OK, Boomer!!!
  • College grads and postgrads are more likely to support mandatory vaccines than those who do not.
  • Upper-income individuals are much more supportive of vaccines than lower-income.
  • Of course, Democrats are pro-mandatory vaccination more than Republicans. 

Although these results are somewhat confirmed by anecdotal observations, they are somewhat troubling. We need to make sure that the facts about the MMR vaccine are received by a broader audience. 

I have noticed that a lot of anti-vaccine rhetoric tries to make it appear that mandatory vaccinations are a civil rights matter. Bigtree uses offensive anti-semitic tropes comparing mandatory vaccines to the Holocaust, in a vain attempt to seduce the Jewish communities to his lies. 

Ironically, white women protested California’s SB276 trying to compare their misinformation about vaccines to the civil rights movement. 

However, the issues with the lower (but not actually low) support of mandatory vaccinations in the lower-income, non-college educated groups may be less about vaccines themselves. It may be more about lower access to quality medical care where physicians can spend time explaining the benefits of the vaccines. 

The same dichotomy exists with the benefits vs. risks polling. Against college grads, along with upper- and middle-income groups, believe that the overall benefits outweigh the risks.

In this case, Republicans and Democrats are approximately equal in their beliefs about the benefits, although many more Democrats think that the benefits are “very high” compared to Republicans.

Atheists support vaccines

One of the more interesting tabulations in this Pew survey was looking at mandatory vaccination acceptance amongst various religious groups in the USA. 

About 96% of atheists and 90% of agnostics support mandatory MMR vaccinations. So not only do atheists support vaccines but also agnostics.

However, Catholics and white mainline Protestants also strongly support mandatory vaccinations, 86% and 88%, respectively. Black Protestants and white evangelical Protestants have somewhat lower support at 75% and 77%, respectively. Jews were not broken out separately and are grouped in with unaffiliated. 

From a religious dogma perspective, no mainstream religions are opposed to vaccinations. Thus, we can conclude that most of those who oppose mandatory vaccinations do so for political reasons, conspiracies, or scientific ignorance. Or something else.

On the other hand, the percentage of Blacks and Hispanics, 74% and 77%, who support mandatory vaccinations are much lower than whites, 86%. As I mentioned above, it may be more an issue with the availability and quality of healthcare as opposed to a general distrust of vaccines. 

Summary

This survey shows that the vast majority of Americans across demographic groups support mandatory vaccines. Of course, the fact that atheists support vaccines in such overwhelming numbers is just a small point. 

But, as Hemant Mehta wrote in an article about this poll:

There’s a clear price society pays because large groups of religious people refuse to accept scientific realities. Their ignorance puts everyone at risk.

Scientific ignorance, whether it’s from those with college educations or those who don’t, is very dangerous when it comes to vaccines. 

My own feelings after looking at the details of this poll tell me three things:

  • those of us who fight to debunk the myths and lies about vaccines have done a good job.
  • those who push those myths and lies haven’t gotten much traction.
  • we have to continue to push the facts about vaccines to push those numbers even higher.

Vaccines save lives. 

The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor
Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!