Dec 14, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Axios-Ipsos poll: The danger of vaccine mandates

Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Half of Americans say it should be illegal for companies to deny service or employment to the unvaccinated, according to the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Why it matters: This carries real political risk for Democrats as President Biden's mandates on federal workers and large employers meet legal challenges across the country and Republicans use try to use the implementation of mandates as a wedge issue.

  • The survey shows there's deep, bipartisan resistance — even from those who support vaccine and mask mandates — to imposing severe consequences on those who won't go along.
  • The Biden administration has tried to impose new COVID vaccine rules, like requiring vaccines for health care workers and ordering some private businesses to require vaccines or weekly tests for their workers or face fines. Federal courts have increasingly blocked those policies.

What they're saying: "This is sort of getting at the limits of what government can do," said Cliff Young, president of Ipsos U.S. Public Affairs. "Biden doesn't have strong support for these sorts of initiatives. It's very conditional."

  • "When it gets to the penalties, it gets real squishy real fast," said Ipsos pollster and senior vice president Chris Jackson. "There's a substantial number of Democrats who think their employer should be able to require vaccination but also think the unvaccinated should not be fired."

By the numbers: 51% of respondents said they support the idea of making it illegal for companies to deny service or employment based on vaccination status — and half of those said they "strongly" support making it illegal.

  • Unlike many COVID policies, this issue doesn't create big partisan divisions: 55% of Republicans, 51% of independents and 46% of Democrats said they'd support making denial of service or employment illegal.
  • Education — not race, gender or party — was the biggest dividing line on this question: 58% of those with high school degrees or less agreed, compared with 44% of those with bachelor's degrees or higher.

But, but, but: 54% of respondents said they support employers requiring all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. That's true for 30% of Republicans, 53% of independents and 78% of Democrats.

  • And 65% of respondents support companies requiring customers and guests to be masked.

What we're watching: 30% of parents in this week's survey said their child already has received at least one dose of the vaccine. That's a new high, and it likely reflects the authorization of a vaccine for children ages 5–11.

  • Another 34% said they're likely to give their child the vaccine once it's available for their age group.

The big picture: Americans' concerns and perceptions of risk ticked back up in this week's survey with the Omicron variant on the rise, but behaviors aren't moving at the same pace.

  • There was no change in self-quarantining, and people are still going out to eat and seeing friends and family.
  • Among unvaccinated Americans, two-thirds said Omicron makes no difference as to whether they'll take the vaccine, while one-in-five said it makes it more likely.
  • Among vaccinated Americans who have not yet gotten a booster, 36% said Omicron makes them more likely to get the booster.
  • A combined 46% of Americans now say they expect it will be more than a year (31%) or never (15%) before they can return to their normal, pre-COVID lives.

The bottom line: "Biden's problem right now isn't mandates; it's that this thing won't end," said Young.

  • "'Why am I still wearing a mask when I've been vaccinated and had a booster?' That's what people are thinking. 'I've done all the things, I've made all the sacrifices. It isn't ending.'"

Methodology: This Axios/Ipsos Poll was conducted Dec. 10-13 by Ipsos' KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 993 general population adults age 18 or older.

  • The margin of sampling error is ±3.5 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample of adults.
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