Aug 3, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Axios-Ipsos poll: The blame game

Who is to blame for rising COVID-19 cases, by vaccination status
Data: Axios/Ipsos Poll; Chart: Connor Rothschild/Axios

Americans place the most blame for rising COVID-19 cases and the spread of new variants on the unvaccinated, people from other nations traveling to the U.S. and Donald Trump, according to the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Why it matters: The findings expose a surreal gap between the views of the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, showing how tough getting to herd immunity could be — and providing new evidence that mandates could make a difference.

  • Vaccinated Americans overwhelmingly blame the unvaccinated as the central problem plus other ancillary factors.
  • The unvaccinated aren't so sure who to blame — and are far more likely to buy into conspiracy theories involving the media or President Biden.

What they're saying: "It's purely political at its core," said Cliff Young, president of Ipsos U.S. Public Affairs. "To the unvaccinated, it just reinforces an already existing false belief system."

  • "If this had happened 30 or 40 years ago, we wouldn't have the same problem," but "we're in a world that's extremely polarized," Young said.
  • "We're dealing with a serious misinformation wall at this point that's clouding facts" for a "recalcitrant group ... The only way to get to them if you're going to get to them is hard policies, hard mandates."

What we're watching: When asked whether they'd take the shots if their employer mandated it, only one in three unvaccinated Americans said yes.

  • But that was the highest response among a series of hypothetical incentives that also included getting a raise, bonus or paid time off, or being required to show vaccination in order to attending sporting events or concerts or to board a plane or train.

The big picture: Fears of the Delta variant permeated this week's national survey results — from the rising shares of parents now willing to vaccinate their kids, to companies imposing new mask mandates and extending remote work, to people social distancing and staying home.

  • Three in 10 employees say their companies have changed policies requiring others to wear a mask or extending remote work, a sign of concern in response to the rising cases.
  • Six in 10 parents of children under 18 now say they'll get their kids vaccinated as soon as available for their age group, the highest share so far in our survey.
  • And a subtle but potentially significant shift: The most stringent group of unvaccinated Americans — what we've been calling the "hard pass" group — has declined to 15%, down from a share of about one in five that held from February until early June.
  • That means while the overall share of unvaccinated held at about three in 10 in our survey, a slightly larger share of them might be persuadable.

By the numbers: Respondents were asked which or who of multiple options they blame, and were told they could choose as many as they liked.

  • Overall, most said they blame the unvaccinated (58%), people from other countries traveling to the U.S. (32%) and former President Trump (28%). Separating the responses of the vaccinated and unvaccinated U.S. adults brings the findings into sharper relief.
  • The vaccinated said their top five targets of blame are the unvaccinated (79%), Trump (36%), conservative media (33%), people from other countries traveling to the U.S. (30%) and Americans traveling internationally (25%).
  • The unvaccinated cited as their top five targets of blame people from other countries traveling to the U.S. (37%), mainstream media (27%), Americans traveling internationally (23%), Biden (21%) and the unvaccinated (10%).
  • Around one in 10 of those who have been vaccinated placed some blame on Biden, while about the same share of unvaccinated placed some blame on Trump.

Methodology: This Axios/Ipsos Poll was conducted July 30-Aug. 2 by Ipsos' KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 999 general population adults age 18 or older.

  • The margin of sampling error is ±3.3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample of adults.
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