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New survey of Floridians: Vast political differences when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines

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New survey of Floridians: Vast political differences when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines

Sep 06, 2023 | 11:59 am ET
By Mitch Perry
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New survey of Floridians: Vast political differences when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines
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Registered nurse Orlyn Grace administers a COVID-19 booster vaccination to Jeanie Merriman at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic on April 06, 2022 in San Rafael, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

COVID-19 cases are rising steadily in Florida and across the country, and a new COVID booster is expected to be available later this month. But a new survey of 600 Floridians shows that getting regular annual booster shots is likely based on a person’s political voter registration.

Only 53% of Republicans would either very likely or somewhat likely get the COVID-19 boosters if they were recommended by public health officials. That compares to 84.1% of Democrats and 69.3% of independent voters.

Researchers at the University of South Florida and Florida Atlantic University conducted the statewide survey of 600 adult Floridians which focused on health policy issues, from COVID to medical marijuana and the opioid crisis. The survey was done by the Florida Center for Cybersecurity, between August 10th and 21st, using political affiliations.

The partisan differences become glaringly apparent in a separate section of results, using statements taken from the CDC’s public guidance on vaccine-related misinformation. The statements classified as “False” by the CDC are highlighted in red.

The partisan differences and COVID misinformation relate to: “% who say that each statement is either “Definitely” or “Probably True.”

Regarding the statement that getting sick with COVID-19 builds better immunity than getting a vaccine, 67.2% Republicans agreed with the statement, compared to 52.6% of independents and 35.6% of Democrats.

Regarding the statement that COVID-19 vaccines contain a “live strain” of the virus, 57.3% of Republicans said that was either definitely or probably true. Among independents, the figure was 48% agreed, as did 36.1% of Democrats.

And on the statement that COVID-19 vaccines can cause you to get sick, a full 50% of Republicans say that is definitely or probably true. Among independents, the figure was 41.5%, and among Democrats, 30.6%.

Meanwhile, the Florida Department of Health’s latest COVID report, published Sept. 1, shows a 29.7% in new positive cases, compared to 22.8% the week before.

Nationally, First Lady Jill Biden tested positive for the coronavirus on Monday night, but President Joe Biden continues to test negatively, the White House says. The president is scheduled to travel to India on Thursday to attend the G20 Leaders’ Summit.

The survey also looks at other issues, such as cannabis legalization.

There’s an effort to get a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize recreational cannabis on the ballot in 2024. If it does make it, the survey shows that it will be a very close vote. When asked whether recreational marijuana should be legal, 60% say yes, 29% say it should remain illegal, and 11% say that they are unsure.

Constitutional amendments in Florida must get 60% support to become law. Smart and Safe Florida, the political committee working to get such a ballot on the 2024 ballot, has already obtained more than the required number of signatures to qualify, but the measure needs ballot language approval by the Florida Supreme Court to make it on the ballot.

The survey also revealed that the vast majority of Floridians are divided on the issue of artificial intelligence. While 46% of those who responded say that AI will improve society in the country, almost the same amount – 45.6% – disagree.

An interesting part of the survey deals with drug use and harm reduction policies to help prevent hepatitis and HIV infection.

A majority of respondents (73.8%) said that they believe that syringe exchange programs should be available in all 67 counties in Florida.

A measure signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2019 allows every county to authorize a needle and syringe exchange program, though no state funds can be used to operate such a program. However, programs can be funded with county, or municipal funds or with private donations. Leon County recently became one of the latest counties to implement such a program.