The GOP's anti-vaccine disinformation campaign over the last year has worked better than anyone could have imagined, and it's killing tens of thousands of red state Americans a month.
Whatever one’s views on the appropriateness of vaccine or mask mandates or other coronavirus-related policies, one fact about those debates is incontrovertible: Misinformation is very disproportionately a problem on one side — the right
A new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation lays that bare better than anything before it. But even the overall numbers might undersell the fundamental problems involved.
Kaiser runs great monthly tracking polls on the virus and related issues, and its most recent asked about false and unproven claims that have permeated the past year or so.
Of the eight statements the poll tested, just 6 percent of Republicans believed each of them to be untrue, compared with 38 percent of Democrats. And 46 percent of Republicans either believed or were unsure about at least half of the claims, compared with just 14 percent of Democrats.
Importantly, that’s not the same as saying 46 percent of Republicans actually believed four or more false claims; the pollster included those who are unsure about the claims in the above numbers.
But even those overall numbers obscure just how ripe the right is for this kind of misinformation. The reason: In most cases, if you exclude Republicans who haven’t heard the claims and focus on just who is familiar with them, a majority of them actually believe the claims.
Kaiser shared additional details of its findings with The Fix. Among them:
- 65 percent of Republicans say the government is exaggerating the death rate from the coronavirus, compared to just 4 percent of Republicans who have heard that claim and say it’s false. (In fact, the number of excess deaths compared with a normal year suggest the death rates are largely undersold.)
- 28 percent of Republicans believe ivermectin is a safe and effective treatment for the coronavirus, compared with 6 percent familiar with the claim who say it’s false. (Ivermectin remains unproven as a coronavirus treatment, with plenty of evidence that it’s not effective.)
- 28 percent also believe the government is hiding vaccine-related deaths, compared with 8 percent who say it’s false. (There is no proof for this claim, which is generally based on open-source and unverified reports to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, or VAERS.)
- 18 percent say you can get the coronavirus from the vaccine, compared with 12 percent who say that’s false. (It is false.)
Indeed, of the eight claims tested, only two feature fewer Republicans who are familiar with the claim saying it was true than saying it was false. Those are: the idea that there are microchips in the vaccines and the idea that the vaccines change your DNA.
In the former case, just 7 percent of Republicans believe it’s true — the same percentage as among Democrats — compared with 40 percent who say it’s false. (About 21 percent of Republicans have heard the claim but are unsure about it.)
The idea that the vaccines change your DNA, which was recently stated by a speaker at one of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s news conferences (the Republican governor didn’t correct the speaker) is believed by 13 percent of Republicans and disbelieved by a similar number, 16 percent.
That more Republicans don’t believe these things seems to owe to the fact that many of them are simply unfamiliar with the claims in the first place — not necessarily that they have sought out reputable information.
The disinformation lock on Republican cultists who have been programmed to commit suicide is horrifying. We're seeing thousands die daily because they refused a safe vaccine, because they were told the vaccine would kill them.
It really is that simple.