For much of those past 20 years, Republicans views on medical advice were broadly consistent. In 2002, 70% of Republicans and Republican leaners said they were confident in the medical advice they received. In 2010 that number stood at 73%.
The overall decline in trust among Republicans in the poll is reflected in other questions as well. Nearly 1 in 4 Republicans (22%) said they had “less trust and confidence” in their doctor than they did at this time last year. That is triple the number of Republicans who said the same in 2002.
There’s also this: Almost 4 in 10 Republicans (39%) say that they “usually feel it is necessary to check for second opinions or do [their] own research on the subject” after receiving advice from their doctor. That’s a double-digit increase from the 26% who said the same in 2010 Gallup polling.
“Increasing skepticism of science and medical advice among Republicans likely is a significant factor in lagging Covid-19 vaccination rates compared with Democrats and political independents,” concludes Gallup’s Jeffrey M. Jones. “Primary doctors could be a persuasive source of information for Americans on protecting themselves from the coronavirus. But it appears Republicans are less likely than others to heed their doctor’s advice, which could put them at greater risk of suffering the worst effects of the coronavirus.”
Indeed, as CNN’s Zach Wolf noted earlier this week, the Covid-19 vaccination map and the 2020 Electoral College map now look eerily similar. “Blue states that voted for President Joe Biden are generally more than 60% vaccinated,” he wrote. “Red states that went for former President Donald Trump are generally under that average.”
It’s impossible to note these facts — and the considerable decline in Republicans’ trusting their doctors — absent a conversation about the ways in which Trump actively worked to undermine expertise (in the medical field and more generally) during his four years in office.
“Stick with us,” Trump told a crowd in 2018. “Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news. … What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”
Trump initially scoffed at Covid-19, insisting it would not trouble America. Even as his administration was recommending mask-wearing, Trump said he would not be doing so; “I don’t know, somehow sitting in the Oval Office behind that beautiful Resolute Desk, the great Resolute Desk,” he said in April 2020. “I think wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens — I don’t know, somehow I don’t see it for myself. I just, I just don’t.”
As the pandemic wore on, Trump publicly suggest quack cures — rather than sound medical advice — for the virus. He suggested injection of disinfectants as a way to combat the virus and repeatedly raised the possibility of using bright light as well. “I would like you to speak to the medical doctors to see if there’s any way that you can apply light and heat to cure, you know, if you could,” Trump said in August 2020. “And maybe you can, maybe you can’t.”
With the 2020 election nearing — and his political fate in grave doubt — Trump attacked Anthony Fauci, one of the most well-regarded doctors in the country, as a “disaster” and suggested that Fauci had been wrong every step of the way in the fight against the virus.
Words and actions have consequences. Trump’s persistent undermining of the severity of the threat posed by Covid-19 coupled with his aggressive undermining of medical expertise has led to this: A country where millions of Americans are refusing to get a life-saving vaccine in order to own the liberal elites.
This is dangerous. People have already died because of Covid-19 who absolutely could have been saved by trusting doctors and getting the vaccine. And, what’s worse is that there are lots more people out there just like them.