In Georgia, vaccine hesitancy tends to be higher among men, young adults, and those earning less than $25,000 a year or who have not attended college. The most likely Georgians to have been inoculated are college graduates, liberals and people who are 65 and older.
And while more than 3.5 million Georgians have received at least one shot of the vaccine, health officials are fighting both misinformation and skepticism as demand for the doses across the state has markedly declined. Overall, about 24% of the poll’s respondents say they don’t intend to get vaccinated. That’s down from the 34% who said in January that they would not be willing to take the vaccine.
“I haven’t got the vaccine and I’m not shy about it,” said Chuck Studebaker, a sales executive from Lilburn who said he’s worried the long-term side effects are unknown, despite numerous medical studies and assurances from national health officials that the vaccines are safe and effective.
Underscoring the pressure to vaccinate more people is a lingering concern among roughly half of Georgians that another surge of COVID-19 cases could hamper the nation’s economic recovery. Of those who worry about another uptick, roughly three-quarters are Democrats.
“I know some people are scared of getting the vaccine, but it’s a lot better than a death sentence,” said Angela Wyler, a retired banker in Buckhead who describes herself as an “independent liberal.”
Gov. Brian Kemp has said that vaccine hesitancy is most pronounced in rural parts of South Georgia among “white Republicans, quite honestly,” and he’s pressed the importance of brokering partnerships with local civic groups “to build up the confidence and convince people this is the right thing to do.”
The AJC poll involved 844 registered voters and was conducted April 20-May 3 by the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs. The margin of error is 3.4 percentage points.
‘I know the history’
Mirroring the overall poll results, about half of Black Georgians have also not yet received a vaccine dose. But a plurality of those respondents — about 46% — indicated they’re going to let others get the vaccine first and “see how things go.”
At a stop in rural Georgia this week, U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock addressed the long-standing distrust of government among many African Americans as he pleaded with them to get vaccinated.
“I know the history. And you all feel it in a deep way,” he said, after noting some in the crowd of more than 100 didn’t raise their hand to show they’ve been inoculated. “But trust the science. And know there are Black scientists involved in this.”
Younger Georgians, too, were more likely to balk at getting vaccinated. The poll showed nearly 60% of Georgians under the age of 45 had not yet received a dose, and many indicated they weren’t planning on receiving one even as availability ramps up.
While younger people face a far lower risk of serious complications from the disease, they make up a larger share of the new virus cases since many higher-risk Americans have received their vaccines. In Georgia, nearly 80% of those 65 and older have been inoculated.
‘Only half of it’
The slowdown in vaccination rates comes as Georgians are starting to feel more comfortable venturing out. Kemp lifted most of the state’s remaining coronavirus restrictions last week, and tax collections indicate an uptick in some sectors of the economy that last year slumped.
And President Joe Biden set a goal this week to deliver at least one shot to 70% of American adults by the Fourth of July to win over both the “doubters” and those not motivated to get inoculated.
The poll showed 55% of Georgians now feel safe getting on a full airplane and 60% are comfortable dining in a restaurant at full capacity.
About half say they feel safe going to a large sporting event or entertainment venue that’s returned to 100% attendance — good news for the Atlanta Braves and Atlanta United, which have both announced a return to pre-pandemic levels of seating capacity.
The responses largely broke down along partisan lines, with conservatives more likely to welcome a return to packed restaurants and crowded stadiums while Democrats are more likely to express concerns.
A broader slice of the electorate — about 60% — said they approve of the way Biden is handling the pandemic.
“We’re certainly heading in the right direction, primarily because of the progress we’ve made on the coronavirus in terms of the vaccine rollout,” said Dean Duggan, who works in the legal industry in Forsyth County, “especially since the start of the current presidential administration.”
David Titus, a former Columbia County commissioner and retired executive, said he’s noticed renewed economic vitality in east Georgia and a sense “we’re headed in the right direction.” He also said he’s more comfortable after receiving both doses of the vaccine.
“But that’s only half of it,” he said. “Protecting others is still very important, and people need to be respectful — whether they’ve gotten the vaccine or not.”
The poll was conducted April 20-May 3 for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution by the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs. It questioned 844 registered voters and has a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.
Have you received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes — 51%
No — 47%
Don’t know; refused to answer — 1%
Which of the following best describes your position on the COVID-19 vaccine? (Asked of those who indicated they had not been vaccinated.)
I am going to get vaccinated as soon as possible — 13%
I am going to let others get vaccinated first and see how things go — 34%
I do not plan on getting vaccinated — 50%
Don’t know; refused to answer — 2%
Are you concerned about another surge of COVID-19 cases?
Concerned — 49%
Not concerned — 50%
Don’t know; refused to answer — 1%
At this time would you feel safe or unsafe getting on an airplane in which all seats are filled?
Safe — 55%
Unsafe — 39%
Don’t know; refused to answer — 6%
At this time would you feel safe or unsafe dining in a restaurant at full capacity?
Safe — 61%
Unsafe — 38%
Don’t know; refused to answer — 1%
At this time would you feel safe or unsafe going to a large sports or entertainment event operating at full capacity.
Safe — 49%
Unsafe — 47%
Don’t know; refused to answer — 4%
Do you strongly approve, somewhat approve, somewhat disapprove or strongly disapprove of the way President Joe Biden is handling the coronavirus pandemic?
Strongly approve — 40%
Somewhat approve — 21%
Somewhat disapprove — 10%
Strongly disapprove — 24%
Don’t know; refused to answer — 5%
Poll information: The survey was administered by the School of Public and International Affairs Survey Research Center at the University of Georgia. The AJC-SPIA Poll was conducted April 20-May3 and included a total of 844 registered voters in Georgia. The calculated margin of error for the total sample is +/-3.4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.