Support for vaccinations for children attending public schools has declined in recent years, according to a Pew Research Center report published May 16.
While 70% of adults agree that “healthy children should be required to be vaccinated to attend public schools because of the potential risk for others,” this is down 12 points from the affirmation level in 2016 and 2019. These results were specifically regarding views on vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella.
Contributing to this overall decline is a drop in support for MMR vaccines among Republicans (down 22 points to 52%) and white evangelical Protestants (down 19 points to 58%).
“This represents a sizable shift from 2019, when white evangelicals backed vaccine requirements for public school children by a margin of 77% to 20%,” the report said.
Despite this overall decline, a strong majority of all adults (88%) say the benefits of MMR vaccines outweigh any risk of side effects (unchanged since 2016).
Among white evangelical Protestants, 87% say the benefits outweigh the risks – unchanged from 2019 but down five points from 2016. The number of white evangelical Protestants who say “the preventative benefits of childhood MMR vaccines are high” dropped 13 points to 69% from 2019 to 2023.
Black Protestants (82%) had the lowest percentage of respondents who say the benefits of MMR vaccines outweigh the risks – one point lower than Hispanic Catholics (83%). However, both groups have much higher levels of support for public school vaccine requirements (77% and 78%, respectively) than white evangelical Protestants (58%), who had the lowest level of affirmation among faith groups surveyed.
Republicans (86%) and Democrats (92%) both have a strong majority who say MMR benefits outweigh the risks, however, this is a five-point decline among Republican respondents and a six-point increase among Democrat respondents since 2016. When asked about vaccines to attend public schools, 57% of Republicans and 85% of Democrats say they should be required.
When the question focused on COVID-19 vaccines, white evangelical Protestants (40%) were the only faith group with less than a majority say the benefits outweigh the risks.
Atheists (84%) and agnostics (83%) had the highest number of respondents say the benefits outweigh the risks, followed by Black Protestants (73%), Hispanic Catholics (73%), white Catholics (63%), white non-evangelical Protestants (60%) and “nones” (60%).
Most U.S. adults agree that “childhood vaccines save millions of lives” and that they “protect communities from outbreaks of disease” (89% for both statements).
The full report is available here. The topline results are available here. The overall margin of error is plus or minus 1.4 percentage points.
Managing editor for news and opinion at Good Faith Media.