(CNN) — The partisan divide in Americans’ vaccination campaign against COVID-19 may be about to go into hyperdrive on Thursday. That’s when President Joe Biden is expected to announce that all federal employees and contractors must be vaccinated or regularly tested.
Vaccine orders are likely to be a politically divisive position and politically split the country in a way that vaccines generally do not. However, they could get more people vaccinated.
Take a look at a June poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation about the topic. The surveyor specifically asked if employers should require vaccinations unless they have a medical exemption. This question is a bit stricter than what Biden is implementing, although it is in the same ballpark overall.
Only 51% of Americans supported such a measure. 46% opposed.
At the time, by comparison, 65% of American adults said they had received at least one dose of the covid-19 vaccine in the survey. In all, 68% had received a dose or were going to receive one as soon as possible. This lines up closely with 69% of those who have currently received a dose.
The same poll indicated that a majority of GOP-leaning Republicans and independents (69%) were against such a measure, while a majority of Democrat-leaning Democrats and independents (69%) were in favor.
The same poll had a slight majority of Republicans (51%) who said they had been vaccinated with at least one dose. Other polls have it even higher.
The Kaiser poll is not the only one showing that providing proof of vaccination is likely to generate political divisions. An April poll of the Quinnipiac University showed that only 49% of Americans said that a vaccination card or passport to show vaccination status was a good idea. That was within the 45% margin of error that indicated it was a bad idea.
These numbers may actually underestimate opposition to vaccine mandates. A clear majority, 61%, of current employees said they do not want their employers to establish a requirement to get vaccinated in order to go to work.
It’s not hard to see how there could be a real pushback against vaccine mandates if they start rolling out across the country.
But here’s the thing: pushing for real sanctions on those who don’t get vaccinated could get people vaccinated in a way that nothing has so far accomplished.
Only 14% of the adult population said they will never receive a vaccine in the Kaiser survey.
A clear majority of adults not vaccinated at this time say they will receive a dose of the vaccine as soon as possible, are waiting and watching before receiving one, or will not do so unless forced.
Additionally, among unvaccinated employees, only 50% said they would quit their job if their employer forced them to get vaccinated. Another 42% said they would get the vaccine. This occurs despite the fact that many of these employees did not want an employer mandate to be implemented.
Employer requirements for vaccinations could have a double impact. They would get a vaccine given to people who were thinking about getting vaccinated and hadn’t already done so. They would also get some people who weren’t thinking of getting a vaccine to get it too.
In fact, we know from past experiences that making it harder for people to get rid of vaccination leads to more people getting vaccinated. In California, for example, the percentage of students who received the childhood immunizations necessary to enter school increased when the state tightened its exemption policy.
The question, of course, is whether employers and politicians feel the need to take a politically risky position when it comes to covid-19 vaccines. If cases continue to rise in the United States, they may.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism