New research shows governors in states without vaccine mandates — or where they’ve outright prohibited such a requirement — have “significantly lower” approval ratings for their handling of the coronavirus.
Republican governors crusading against vaccine mandates are facing significantly lower approval ratings on their handling of the coronavirus pandemic than their counterparts. But they’re not worried.
From Florida to Texas to South Dakota, GOP governors have been on the front lines of the war against vaccine mandates, barring immunization requirements in their states and threatening to fight President Joe Biden’s federal vaccine mandate in court. Just last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott flat-out banned vaccine requirements, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis followed up by vowing to sue the Biden administration.
But new research shows governors in states without vaccine mandates — or where they’ve outright prohibited such a requirement — have “significantly lower” approval ratings for their handling of Covid-19. While many of these governors remain popular, some have seen dips in their overall approval ratings in recent months as their states faced the latest wave of coronavirus.
In states with vaccine mandates, 52 percent of people approve or strongly approve of their governors’ handling of the pandemic, according to the latest survey from the Covid States Project, which has been tracking gubernatorial approval ratings for the past year and a half. That coronavirus approval rating drops to 42 percent for governors in states with no vaccine requirements. And it takes yet another hit — dropping to just 36 percent — in states where governors have barred vaccine mandates.
The findings could be temporary, and influenced by summer outbreaks that are now subsiding, but the study’s authors believe the public’s support for vaccine requirements is real, as is its distaste for those opposing the measures.
“Our findings really suggest that individuals in our survey were rewarding these governors who took proactive steps to combat the pandemic and they were punishing governors who prohibited public health policies that would combat the pandemic like vaccine mandates,” said Alauna C. Safarpour, a fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy and one of the project’s researchers.
Then there’s the political calculus. Several Republican governors, including Abbott in Texas, are facing primary challenges from their right. Some, like DeSantis in Florida and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, have eyes on 2024. Both of those factors are sending GOP governors scrambling to shore up support among the party’s base.
And right now that base is anti-mandate. A recent CBS News/YouGov poll found that 64 percent of Republicans would prefer to vote for a candidate who encourages vaccines but that an even greater number — 75 percent — want a candidate who opposes mandates. A Morning Consult/POLITICO poll from August found only about 35 percent of Republicans were in favor of mandatory coronavirus vaccines.
Vaccine requirements “remain very unpopular with the Republican base,” GOP strategist Ryan Williams said. “Any support for a vaccine mandate at this point would be damaging for any governor thinking of running for president as a Republican.”
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