Right-leaning politicians and news media are taking advantage of conservative supporters by misinforming them and politicizing scientific research. This is causing not only further polarization but a disproportionate number of deaths for conservatives as well.
In late December of 2021, former U.S. President Donald Trump explained, while on a talk show with Bill O’Reilly, that he received the vaccine booster shot. Immediately after, the crowd began to boo him.
Promoting this general attitude towards vaccines, influential people such as Fox News host Tucker Carlson compared vaccinations to the “imperial Japanese army and [what] the Nazis did in their medical experiments,” as reported by Business Insider, while Republican Lt. Governor of Vermont David Zuckerman questioned whether the “government should be forcing [vaccines] on individuals,” quoted Politico.
Carlson pretends that the vaccines are built on bad science and are tests on the general public, and Zuckerman acts as if the government is forcing citizens to get vaccinated, thus promoting a problematic skepticism towards vaccines.
Because of misinformation like this, a survey by Monmouth University states one in four Americans were reported refusing the COVID-19 vaccine. Given that we need 70-90% of Americans vaccinated for herd immunity, as Dr. Ashley Drews claims, a medical director of infection prevention and control at Houston Methodist, this is extremely problematic.
In fact, a 2021 Kaiser Family Foundation poll reported political partisanship as being the strongest indicator of a person’s vaccination status with republicans being three times more likely to be unvaccinated than democrats. This data aligns with the fact that people living in pro-Trump counties are 2.73 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than pro-Biden counties.
This demonstrates that COVID-19 and vaccine skepticism are rhetorical tactics used to polarize right leaning audiences from left-leaning audiences. The right poses vaccines as “an infringement on people’s rights,” or as being based on unreliable science, which causes a tribalistic divide between people who support the vaccine and those who don’t. Unfortunately, this means that people living in right-leaning counties are disproportionately more likely to die from COVID-19. Politicians and news media know this will help promote their goals, and they will continue to promote vaccine skepticism even though it is resulting in people dying.
For those who have anti-vaccine family members or friends, science will likely be completely unpersuasive. Showing how they’ve been misinformed may only make the situation worse. Instead, your best bet is to use emotion. Focus on how they are important to you and that you want to make sure they are safe. We need to do our best to reduce the polarization of science.
Ian Palacios is an English and philosophy major. He can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]