Unfortunately, the vaccination rates by state show us that even the race to protect people from the coronavirus has fallen along familiar political lines.
Take a look at the states that are leading the way for adults (18 years or older) with at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccines, as of Thursday’s CDC report. Of the top 25 states in terms of percentage vaccinated, President Joe Biden won 21 of them in the 2020 election.
Just four of the top 25 states for vaccination were won by former President Donald Trump last election. Trump won 21 of the bottom 25 for vaccinations. This includes 16 of the bottom 17 states.
Unfortunately, this shouldn’t be too surprising. Polling has shown for a while now that Democrats were more likely to get vaccinated than Republicans. A NPR/PBS-NewsHour/Marist College poll from earlier this month showed that 82% said they were vaccinated compared to a mere 45% of Republicans. The stats revealed a similar split between Biden backers (82%) and Trump supporters (44%).
The correlation between vaccination rates and the 2020 election outcome by state has only strengthened over time, as supplies have overtaken demand. When I examined the stats a month and a half ago, there were a few Trump won states in the top 10. That’s no longer the case.
Now, not only are all the top 10 states for vaccinations places that went for Biden, all of the top 20 are.
But it’s not just that the vaccination map is starting to look like the 2020 election map. It’s that the underlying demographic trends driving both of them are similar.
Education has become an increasingly important factor in how people vote. People with college degrees are far more likely to vote Democratic, while those without one are far more likely to vote Republican.
Right now, 21 of the top 25 states for vaccination have an above average percentage of adults 25 and older with a college degree. The inverse is also true: 21 of the bottom 25 states for vaccination rates have a below average percentage of adults with a college degree.
When we limit it to just White adults (as the educational divide in our elections is mostly among White voters), we see basically the same thing. Of the top 25 states for vaccinations, 20 of them have an above average percentage of White adults with a college degree.
Again, this is backed up by the polling. In the Marist poll, college graduates are 24 points more likely than non-college graduates to say they’ve been vaccinated. Among White adults, it’s the identical 24 point gap.
The other big trend in the last few elections has been the widening gap between how urban areas and rural areas vote. The former have become more Democratic, while the latter have become more Republican. Trump even picked up ground in 2020 in more rural areas, even as he lost ground nationally.
At this point, 17 of the top 25 states for vaccinations have a larger share of their residents living in urban areas than the national average. Just 8 have below the national average of urban residents. Three (Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont) are in New England, where there is the countervailing trend of having a well-educated adult population.
Among the bottom 25, 17 have a larger proportion of their population living in rural areas than the average state.
What makes the urban and rural split disappointing is that rural areas actually had a jump start on vaccinations. More rural residents said they had been vaccinated as of late March, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll. But as supplies became more available, that trend reversed itself in the same poll.
The urban/rural split that became so familiar manifested.
It’s not exactly clear what if anything can be done to stop the vaccination campaign trends from looking like the trends that rule our political world. The polling shows rural, non-college educated and Republican adults are far more likely to say they don’t want the vaccine (i.e. they’re vaccine resistant, not just vaccine hesitant).
The scary thing is if something that can save a lot of lives has fallen into the usual political traps, then pretty much anything can.