Attitudes to the Covid vaccine across US cities
The Covid Vaccine rollout is under way, with public and private choices around vaccines set to be felt across America for years to come. Whether this enormous effort proves a success, however, will hinge on US citizens’ attitudes towards the vaccine.
By analyzing the conversation around the vaccine between October 2020 and January 2021 within the US, we tried to pick up a signal of how public opinion is evolving around vaccines, organising the differing attitudes in cities across the US into three buckets: generally positive; nervous and concerned; and strongly negative.
So, in which cities do we see public opinion at its most positive, nervous or negative?
Salt Lake City’s strong positivity appears linked to the combined efforts of a general local healthcare, news media and politicians (including Mitt Romney) to keep citizens informed with the progress of various initiatives. The local population, which is approximately 50% Mormon, appear to feel proud that Utah is doing well, and that collective effort is paying off.
— Morgan Saxton (@KUTVMorgan) December 11, 2020
Phoenix, on the other hand, stands out across the search as the city where conversation is most dominated by nervous or negative elements. This could stem from the polarized political environment (Arizona had a very tight electoral race, still subject to numerous challenges), as well as Phoenix-based high-profile conservatives making the link between vaccine dispersion and illegal voting, a highly controversial topic in the state.
The more you see the left talk about a mandatory China Virus vaccine card, the more you should ask yourself: Why are they opposed to mandatory voter ID?
— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) December 27, 2020
Many individuals around Phoenix engaged with pro-vaccine discourse have adopted the language of their opponents, indicating that local vaccine skeptics have assumed a dominant role in setting the boundaries and syntax of public conversation.
Vaccine attitudes across the top 20 US cities
Across the rest of the country, the variance is not enormous, with positive mentions usually making up between 30-40% of the total vaccine conversation. Traditionally liberal urban areas like Boston, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle skew positive, while more traditionally conservative cities like Oklahoma City and Johnson City (Tennessee) see rates of strong negative mentions getting closer to 50% of the vaccine conversation.
Across the US cities with the most conversational volume, Boston emerges as a place where conversation leans most towards excitement. This arises in large part from the city’s proximity to Harvard, and the presence of influential individuals wishing to celebrate the scientific achievement behind the vaccine.
Saying the vaccine was made “in record time” makes it all sound like we can always wait for the next pandemic to hit…
We need basic science funding now more than ever…
And we need private firms to continue to support and grow brilliant basic biotechnology ideas.
— Alejo Rodriguez-Fraticelli, PhD (@AlejoFraticelli) December 28, 2020
Additionally, the Moderna vaccine was created in Massachusetts. The link is not so pronounced as that seen between Oxford and Astrazeneca, but it’s clear that people are better disposed to vaccines they view as local.
How we did this
By searching for all mentions of vaccine made alongside custom syntaxes expressing positivity, nervousness or strong negativity within the US throughout Oct-Jan, and filtered according to US city. Cities are only included if they returned over 1500 individual mentions.Discover More
Nervousness to the vaccine within the US
When looking at how the public talks about using language related to nervousness (e.g “anxious” or “not so sure”) we see side effects emerge as the single greatest cause for concern, attaining over double as many mentions as the suggestion that the process may have been unduly rushed.
Maaaan im not against taking the vaccine im just against……taking it…FIRST i wanna see the side effects first cause if yall start clucking i dont wanna be a fucking chicken
— King Jaye🎀 (@ItsJayeBeauty) December 27, 2020
The communities using nervous language can be divided according to their affinity, which follow broadly political lines.
Within left-leaning communities we see nervous or sceptical comment, exhibiting that focus on side effects and on not wanting to go first. These posts are more likely incorporate elements of self-mockery or sarcasm.
My job let us know we can get the vaccine…. but I’m not taking it until like next year. I am in no way shape or form an anti-vaxxer but mmm mmm bitch let me see the side effects on the first group, then we’ll chat 😂
— ayana, last name wilson💍 (@TipsyTwiggy) December 30, 2020
Nervousness among more conservative communities, meanwhile, is reflected in posts citing drug companies such as Pfizer, alongside numerous references to ‘big pharma’, as they assume bad-faith on the part of drugs companies.
Beware of severe side effects of the Pfizer #COVID19 vaccine. Note that these are short-term adverse effects observed in the clinical trials. No one really knows about the long-term health consequences of this experimental mRNA vaccine!https://t.co/mk2je5ukzF
— Ned Nikolov, Ph.D. (@NikolovScience) December 14, 2020