There’s overwhelming agreement among American voters on the importance of immunizing children, yet a sizable minority still feels the decision to vaccinate should be up to the parents, according to a Fox News poll released Thursday. The new poll also finds significant skepticism about the safety of vaccines.
Almost everyone -- 89 percent -- thinks it’s important for children to be vaccinated against deadly childhood diseases. That includes a 57-percent majority that says vaccination is “extremely” important and another 32 percent that says it is “very” important.
Nonetheless, fewer people -- but still a majority -- think vaccines in general are safe. Sixty-five percent of voters say the shots are “extremely” (29 percent) or “very” (36 percent) safe. Yet a substantial 31-percent minority says they are only “somewhat” (26 percent) or “not at all” (5 percent) safe.
That belief is bipartisan: Democrats (30 percent unsafe) and Republicans (32 percent unsafe) are about equally likely to express skepticism about the safety of vaccines.
Some groups feel more strongly about the risk than others. Those who are part of the Tea Party movement (43 percent) and those under age 30 (40 percent) are among those most likely to say vaccines are unsafe.
However, overall, 70 percent of those who think vaccines are unsafe still say it’s important to have children immunized.
Who decides? By a 58-39 percent margin, voters feel childhood vaccinations should be mandatory rather than left up to the parents. Parents (58-40 percent) and non-parents alike (58-38 percent) agree it should be mandatory.
More women (62 percent) than men (53 percent) say immunizations should be mandatory -- and Democrats (67 percent) are much more likely than Republicans (51 percent) to feel that way.
Older voters feel even more strongly than that. Those ages 65+ say shots should be mandatory by a 41-point margin (69-28 percent). Among voters under 30 that margin is a much narrower eight points (52-44 percent).
Sixty percent of voters would keep non-vaccinated children out of school. And 61 percent of parents agree, as do 65 percent of moms.
On the other hand, despite the widespread consensus on how important vaccines are, more than a third of voters would allow non-vaccinated children to attend public school (35 percent).
Men (40 percent) are more likely than women (32 percent) and voters under 45 (42 percent) are more likely than those ages 45+ (30 percent) to say it’s okay for kids who haven’t gotten their shots to attend.
The Fox News poll is conducted by telephone with live interviewers under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R). The 1,044 registered voters were reached via landline and cell phone numbers randomly selected for inclusion in this nationwide survey from February 8-10, 2015. The full poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.