The Growing Political/Vaccine Divide

[ Posted Monday, July 5th, 2021 – 16:01 UTC ]

A divide has opened up in America, between states that have done a good job vaccinating as many of their citizens as possible and those who are falling behind. Many noted this disparity as Independence Day rolled around, when the country as a whole fell three points behind President Joe Biden's ambitious goal to get at least one vaccine shot into the arms of 70 percent of adult Americans. Hitting only 67 percent is still a monumental achievement (more than two-thirds), to be sure. But a lot of media focus was on the fact that many individual states have indeed reached the 70 percent goal, while others hadn't even gotten to 60 percent. But what was largely missing in all this commentary was the stark fact of the political divide.

To put it bluntly, blue states -- almost all of them, with only a few exceptions -- are doing a great job. All the states with the worst records are red states. There are a few in the middle (some purple states, some red states, and three bluish states), but this divide is so obvious and notable that it's kind of a mystery why more people haven't pointed it out.

Don't believe me? From a vaccine tracking page in the Washington Post which shows which states are where (percentage-wise) comes a chart showing how each state is doing (the chart titled: "When states will vaccinate 70% of adults at current rate" -- and it's worth mentioning that the article itself is not behind the paywall, so anyone can see it). It shows where each state currently is and how long it is projected until the other states hit the 70 percent goal. From the chart, here is the list of states who have already met the goal, in roughly descending order of the percentage they have achieved:

New Mexico
New Jersey
Rhode Island
New Hampshire
Washington D.C.
New York

Twenty-one states, all of them either solid blue or bluish-purple (New Hampshire, maybe Pennsylvania and New Jersey as well...). Not a single red state in the bunch.

Now here's the bottom of that list, the states which haven't even gotten to 60 percent (the bottom two haven't even gotten to 50 percent), also in roughly descending order of adults vaccinated:

North Carolina
North Dakota
South Carolina
West Virginia

Sixteen states, all of them either ruby-red or a very reddish shade of purple (North Carolina, Ohio, Montana, and maybe West Virginia to give Joe Manchin his due). But not a single solid-blue Democratic state is to be found on that list.

The remaining 13 states in the middle (over 60 percent but below 70) are also either purple or red, for the most part. The only three which could be called blue (or bluish-purple) are Wisconsin, Nevada, and Michigan.

Personally, I saw this mapped out in plenty of news reports over the holiday weekend. But almost nobody pointed out the painfully obvious -- that when mapped out state by state, the resulting map is almost the same as a map of Electoral College results from the past few elections. There simply are no outliers. The division is pretty stark and pretty hard to miss, but still few seem to have drawn the obvious conclusion.

I wondered why this is, and I could only come up with two possible explanations. The first is reporters living inside their own comfort silos. A general reporter or a pandemic/medical reporter doesn't go looking for political answers, for the most part. And the political reporters don't get assigned stories about the pandemic and vaccination efforts -- except when politics intersects with the effort, as with Biden's arbitrary goal. But even then they're not all that observant.

The other explanation I came up with seems to make more sense, but I truly doubt there's really a huge conspiracy to do this, in reality. If the news media really did pick up on the story and run with it, blaring: "Blue states reach herd immunity, red states fall way behind," then it is just going to make it all the harder for the red states to ever catch up. Getting vaccinated is already political, with Republican voters refusing vaccines at a much higher rate than independents or Democrats. Rubbing everyone's noses in this fact is just going to make the tribalism worse -- which is why the news media might be shying away from such stories. They know it would be counterproductive to the national goal of achieving herd immunity to make a big deal out of it. But again, it's pretty far-fetched to think that all the media came to this same conclusion and decided to actively bury the connection and scrub all politics from the reporting.

So I am left with my initial reaction: maybe they just missed it. Maybe these stories will eventually start appearing, as the divide becomes more and more obvious. The chart this data came from shows a timeline of when each state can be expected to hit the 70 percent mark. Eight states aren't even projected to do so this calendar year. The worst state -- Mississippi -- isn't projected to do so until a full year from now. So there will likely be a whole lot of time for the media to wake up and realize this connection.

Or perhaps they'll figure it out if the delta variant causes massive hotspots (as is currently happening in Missouri) -- and each and every one of those hotspots is in a solid Republican state. Sooner or later it's going to become pretty plain to see that blue states are just safer places to live in right now than the red states are.

The real conclusion and (hopefully) the lesson which will be drawn, afterwards, is that it is just monumentally stupid to politicize a viral pandemic, in any way. Donald Trump is guilty of a lot of things, but making mask-wearing (and then, later, getting vaccinated) some sort of political statement was just downright depraved. Trump could easily have taken a different route, and claimed that he had personally and singlehandedly created all the vaccines, so any follower of his worth his or her salt would immediately get the shots to prove their loyalty to him. Things would have been much different now, if he had chosen this route. MAGA-hatted people at his rallies would probably even proudly wave their vaccination cards at Trump, to show their loyalty. Stranger things have happened.

But of course, none of that did happen, and it won't. Trump encouraged his followers to embrace the same anti-science views he did, which they eagerly adopted. That chart -- and all the maps showing which states are doing better than others -- is the direct result. While states like Vermont, Hawai'i, and Massachusetts have surged past 80 percent of adults vaccinated, some of the red states are just never going to catch up. This is what politicizing vaccinations does, whether the media has figured it out yet or not.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


10 Comments on “The Growing Political/Vaccine Divide”

  1. [1] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    The only three which could be called blue (or bluish-purple) are Wisconsin, Nevada, and Michigan.

    nevada can legitimately be called bluish-purple. wisconsin and michigan, however, are a certain kind of bluish-purple. they're states with a slim democratic majority, but where the republican factions are much, much more intense and motivated than the democrats. the conservatives vote much more reliably than the liberals, especially in non-presidential elections.


  2. [2] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    That's obviously true, but when I go to the grocery store, the majority of the customers that I see who are still wearings masks are black people! Why aren't they getting vaccinated? I don't believe that it's because of death cult politics.

  3. [3] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    Corporate media is always going to try to avoid offending customers with the obvious. Another good example is the building collapse in Florida. They've obsessed about it for about 10 days now, but they still aren't talking about why structural repairs weren't made. It would sound like victim-blaming. It's not an apartment building and there is no building owner to blame. The condo owners didn't want to cough up the million$ required, so the HOA couldn't raise the money. This will probably be repeated as condo buildings age. Condos are a relatively recent thing.

  4. [4] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    Governors in those red states are helpless (not to mention complicit).

    WV gov Jim Justice said: “You know, we have a lottery that basically says, if you’re vaccinated we’re going to give you stuff. Well, you’ve got another lottery going on, and it’s the death lottery.”

    “Red states probably have a lot of people that, you know, are very, very conservative in their thinking and they think, "Well, I don’t have to do that." but they’re not thinking right.”

    “I hate to say this, but what would put them over the edge is an awful lot of people dying. The only way that’s going to happen is a catastrophe that none of us want. And so we just got to keep trying.”

    Good luck with that. Death cult zombies are willing to die to pwn the libs. It doesn't get a lot more stupid than that. Critical thinking is not involved.

  5. [5] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    Idiot GQP congressman Thomas Massie (KY) twittered this lie:

    “I’ve been contacted by members of our voluntary military who say they will quit if the COVID vaccine is mandated.”

    . . . as if that's an option they could choose.

  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    I live in what used to be an apartment building but then went to a co-op where all of the units were individually owned. Now, it is in the process of converting to a condo. I've rented all along but, now, I am in the process of purchasing from the owners of the unit (they wish to sell and are giving me the first option to buy - which I am extremely, extremely desperate to do as this has been my home for more than 40 years ... beautiful balcony, very large rooms and huge windows and a lovely back yard with inground pool, great location and view of sunsets from the fifth floor of an eight story building ...). It's very hard to find a mortgage on a coop unit and I'm currently stressed out over it as I'm not sure how long the owners will wait - the condo conversion could take months more to complete.

    Anyway, I've been concerned about a lot of things of late and now I'm worried about collapse. I'm pretty sure that most people in the building would not want to cough up millions, as you say. Though the Florida condo collapse may change that, should it ever become a problem. In any event, I can't even contemplate moving, so ...

  7. [7] 
    John From Censornati wrote:


    If I were you, I'd look into whether or not there's been a recent structural inspection, who did it, and what the results were. I'd want to know how much money the HOA has in reserves as well.

    From what I gather about Surfside, it was built on swampland. I imagine that rising sea water due to climate change couldn't have helped. I believe I heard that the building's swimming pool was on an upper level and was leaking which also caused damage.

    All of that sounds like stuff that's probably common in south FL and that's what I meant about it being repeated, but I had never really thought about any of that condo building upkeep before.

  8. [8] 
    John From Censornati wrote:


    Maybe these stories will eventually start appearing

    In fact, the best cable TV news host (Chris Hayes) covered it on his show last night.

  9. [9] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Yeah, my lawyer wants to know all that, too. :)

    It actually works in my favour, I'm thinking ... who else would want to buy my unit so I might have more time. Last I heard, there was a bit of a bidding war going on in this building - it's very, very popular, built in 1968 ... they just don't make 'em like this anymore. New condos going up now have dinky little windows and small balconies and they're in the heart of the concrete jungle city. My neighbourhood is called Stanley Park and, while it ain't Vancouver, it is very aptly named.

    Wish me luck! Of course, I'll be in debt 'til I die but, it's worth it!

  10. [10] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Another thing, too ... all of the balconies, save one or two, have recently been enclosed - by windows running the full length - and, for me, around the corner, a bit. It's like a sun room now.

    However, all those windows must add a lot of weight and were these balconies built to withstand it all??? I'll be taking your good advice! (there were no extra rebars put in or anything ... yikes...

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