Majority in U.S. Critical of Religious Vaccine Exemptions, Poll Finds

About 60 percent of Americans believe too many people are using religion to avoid vaccine mandates, according to a new survey from the Public Religion Research Institute and the Interfaith Youth Core.,

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A majority of Americans are critical of religious exemptions to Covid vaccines, a survey finds.

A protester opposed to vaccine mandates at a rally in Los Angeles in September. A new survey finds 60 percent of Americans are critical of religious exemptions to vaccination.
A protester opposed to vaccine mandates at a rally in Los Angeles in September. A new survey finds 60 percent of Americans are critical of religious exemptions to vaccination.Credit…Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press
  • Dec. 10, 2021, 7:32 a.m. ET

Only about one in 10 Americans say that receiving the Covid-19 vaccine would violate their religious beliefs, while about 60 percent say that too many people are using religion as an excuse to avoid vaccine mandates, according to a new survey from the Public Religion Research Institute and the Interfaith Youth Core.

A majority of Americans are critical of religious exemptions and say that the vaccines do not violate their own religious beliefs or the teachings of their religion, and that there are no valid religious reasons to refuse the Covid-19 vaccine.

The survey indicates a sharp divide between vaccinated and unvaccinated Americans. That gap widens along partisan lines. More than 80 percent of vaccinated Democrats say they are angry at those who refuse to get vaccinated, and similar numbers of unvaccinated Republicans are “angry at those who think they have the right to tell me to get vaccinated against Covid-19.” Less than half of vaccinated Republicans and unvaccinated Democrats say they are angry along such lines.

About one in five Americans say that vaccination has caused major conflict within their families.

More than 200 million Americans — over 60 percent of the population — have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. The United States crossed that milestone on Wednesday as the threat of the Omicron variant spurred a flurry of jabs in recent days, though the daily rate remains far below its peak in April. And the United States lags significantly behind several other countries, which have inoculated over 80 percent of their populations.

The Public Religion Research Institute survey focused on attitudes toward religious exemptions, a contentious topic amid sweeping vaccine mandates in American workplaces.

No major religions or denominations oppose Covid vaccines, and many religious leaders have publicly endorsed them. In almost every religious group surveyed, more than half of respondents said that there were no religious reasons to refuse the Covid vaccine. White evangelical Protestants were the only exception: Just 41 percent agreed.

White evangelical Protestants were also the only major religious group among whom a majority believed that “the government is not telling us about other treatments for Covid-19 that are just as effective as the vaccine.”

About three in 10 unvaccinated Americans say they have already asked or plan to ask for an exemption from the vaccine because it goes against their religious values. Those numbers are higher among unvaccinated white evangelical Protestants and Protestants of color, about 40 percent of whom say they plan to or already have asked for religious exemptions.

But even among those who said the vaccines violate their understanding of their religion’s teaching, more than four in 10 have already been vaccinated or intend to get a shot as soon as possible, said Robert P. Jones, chief executive officer and founder of the Public Religion Research Institute.

“There’s not a one-to-one correlation,” Mr. Jones said. “That’s the way people live their lives: It’s messy, and there are other calculations.”

The survey of more than 5,000 Americans was conducted in October and November.

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