More Colorado polling finds political, geographic splits in COVID vaccine hesitancy

New mask order allows groups of unvaccinated people to go mask-free
colorado covid vaccine
Posted at 2:03 PM, May 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-03 16:03:58-04

DENVER – As Colorado reaches its saturation point of having enough COVID-19 vaccines for people who want them, new Colorado polling continues to show a political divide in who wants to get them.

Gov. Jared Polis on Sunday extended and amended the statewide mask order to include new provisions for people to go mask-free inside indoor public spaces if 80% of the people in the room can prove they are fully vaccinated.

The move comes as 1.9 million Coloradans have been fully immunized against COVID-19 and with 2.6 million Coloradans already having received their first dose. Colorado has received more than 4 million vaccine doses to date.

And Polis and State Epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy last week showed how counties with the highest vaccination rates – including Boulder, Denver and Jefferson – had much lower COVID-19 case rates than counties where a smaller share of the population has been vaccinated.

Herlihy said those data showed “the first promising indication [that] we’re seeing community level protection” because of the vaccine, but also the importance of the push to get the groups of people who have been waiting for the initial rush to die down, or who may have some hesitancy to get vaccinated, their shots.

The number of Coloradans vaccinated daily has dipped each week since around 80,000 people were vaccinated on April 9, with at least 59,000 doses administered each day of that week. Last week, the greatest number of doses administered on any day of the week was 45,000.

Screen Shot 2021-05-03 at 11.14.52 AM.png
This chart from the state shows the number of vaccines administered daily over the past several months.

The state has now opened five of the six state mass vaccination clinics up to walk-up and drive-up availability as well in an effort to get more people vaccinated in areas with lower rates to try to reach herd immunity levels as quickly as possible.

New polling released Monday by Keating Research, OnSight Public Affairs and Mike Melanson (KOM Colorado Poll), a Democratic-leaning consortium, backs up some of the data state officials shared last week with respect to where the most people were getting vaccinated in different areas of Colorado.

The online poll surveyed 528 active Colorado voters across the state between April 20-26 and has a ±4.3% margin of error. It surveyed Coloradans based on party and demographic trends. Thirty percent of respondents were registered Democrats; 42% were unaffiliated; and 27% were Republicans.

The poll found that 63% of people surveyed had already received at least one vaccine dose, another 10% who said they planned on getting vaccinated but had not yet, 12% who said they were not sure if they would get vaccinated, and 15% who said they don’t plan to get vaccinated.

But as a Magellan Strategies poll did in February, the KOM Poll still found political splits on vaccines two months later and with a much greater share of the overall population already vaccinated. Analysis of government data around vaccine hesitancy done by the New York Times in mid-April also found a nexus between political affiliation and whether or not a person was planning to get vaccinated or already had been.

Eighty percent of Democrats said they had already received one dose, compared to 61% of unaffiliated voters and 46% of Republican respondents to the KOM Poll. Ten percent of all three groups, respectively, said they planned on getting a vaccine but had not yet.

But the splits were apparent when it came down to those who were unsure whether they would get vaccinated and those who said they will not get vaccinated at all.

Six percent of Democrats said they were not sure if they would get inoculated, compared to 15% of unaffiliated voters and 16% of Republican voters.

But 27% of Republican respondents said they don’t plan on getting the vaccine, compared to 15% of unaffiliated voters who said they do not plan to and 4% of Democrats.

Republican women (29%) were slightly more likely than Republican men (26%) to say they would not get the vaccine, according to the poll. Unaffiliated women (19%) were also more likely than unaffiliated men (10%) to say they wouldn’t get vaccinated among those polled.

Among those who said they were not sure they would get vaccinated, their top concerns were believing vaccines were “developed too quickly” (63%) and worries over the short-term side effects from the vaccine (52%), which can widely vary.

Among those who said they did not plan on getting vaccinated, 50% of people said “the threat of COVID-19 is overstated,” while 49% said they don’t believe the vaccines are safe. Forty-seven percent of that group said they believe the vaccines were developed “too quickly.”

The poll also showed some correlation to the data shared by state officials last week showing how vaccine rates were higher in Denver and Boulder compared to more rural counties. The poll results showed 79% of respondents in Denver and Boulder had already received at least one vaccine dose and only 4% said they don’t plan on getting vaccinated.

In Larimer, Weld, Pueblo and El Paso counties, 60% of people said they had already received at least one dose, while 19% of respondents from those counties said they did not plan on getting vaccinated. Outside of the metro area and the larger Front Range counties, 51% of respondents said they had already received one dose, and 23% said they don’t plan on getting vaccinated.

Currently, the metro-area counties with the highest vaccination rates are Broomfield, Boulder, Jefferson, Denver and Douglas counties. In the mountains, San Miguel, San Juan, Mineral, Summit, Eagle, Routt, Gunnison, La Plata and Ouray counties all have at least 60% of their populations vaccinated with at least one dose. Most of those counties trended toward Democrats in last year’s election.

The counties with the lowest vaccination rates are all mostly in rural parts of the state that trended toward Republicans last year – with the lowest rates found in Bent and Crowley counties, where under 20% of the population have received their first dose.

Other counties where less than 35% of the population have been vaccinated include Clear Creek, Moffat, Kit Carson, Fremont, Rio Blanco, Lincoln, Saguache, Logan, Cheyenne, Elbert and Washington counties.

“The encouraging news as we enter year two of the pandemic is that we see strong support for vaccines across almost every demographic,” said pollster Chris Keating. “But there is clearly more work to do to improve rates among Republicans and in rural areas, where the number of people who have or plan to be vaccinated lags.”