Major rise in public support for COVID vaccine – Oxford study

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Age remains a strong predictor of willingness to take the vaccine but, between the first survey in October and the second in February, all age groups showed significantly increased support for taking the vaccine.

  • All age groups over 50 now record more than 90% acceptance (People in their 50s show a 17% increase in support).
  • All adults show more than 80% acceptance.

All age groups over 50 now record more than 90% acceptance [of the vaccine]…All adults show more than 80% acceptance

Both men and women have become more supportive of a vaccine, with women’s willingness to have a jab increasing from 73.6% to nearly 88% and men’s acceptance rising from 82% to nearly 90%.

Despite this steep shift in public opinion, however, Oxford researchers found important gaps remain, driven by income, political values and ethnicity.

The survey of 1,200 UK residents, contacted in early October 2020 and again in the first week of February 2021, revealed strong relationships between political attitudes and the intention to accept the vaccine. The survey found:

  •  People on lower incomes are, on average, less willing to take the vaccine.

All income groups show more than 80% willingness to take the vaccine, but the wealthiest groups now show more than 90% acceptance. Going against the broad trend towards vaccine uptake, this gap has widened somewhat since October from 13% to 15%.  

  • Whether you voted for Brexit appears related to vaccine acceptance. The study found ‘Remainers’ are 7% points more likely willing to take the vaccine than ‘Leavers’ or those who did not vote in the 2016 referendum.

But all groups have increased willingness to take the vaccine with support at more than 85% across the Brexit divide.

  • People who voted Brexit party or Green in 2019 – and especially those who did not vote at all – are the least willing to take the vaccine, with SNP and Liberal voters most positively inclined.  Supporters of Nigel Farage’s new Reform UK party are the most hesitant, with just over 50% saying they will take the vaccine, compared to 100% of SNP voters.

The non-voters showed little increase between the two surveys, with some 75% now saying they will accept the vaccine. But Conservative and Labour voters reported acceptance of some 93% with increases of 10.3% and nearly 13% respectively. But Brexit party voters’ support for the vaccine increased by more than 16% to 86% acceptance.

  • The opinion of ethnic minority participants has edged slightly in favour of the vaccine, but still trails the white population.

In October, some 58% of people from ethnic minorities said they would be likely to take the vaccine. This has increased to more than 80%. But, at the same time, the levels of white British supporting the jab has increased from nearly 80% in the autumn to more than 90% in the second survey.

 In October, some 58% of people from ethnic minorities said they would be likely to take the vaccine. This has increased to more than 80%.

  • There is no evidence that noting the UK’s leading role in approving or developing the vaccine affects willingness to take it.
  • Respondents were broadly supportive of the government’s performance in rolling out the vaccine and in who received priority for the vaccine but showed greater concerns about the policy of delaying the second dose of the vaccine.

Ben Ansell, Professor of Comparative Democratic Institutions at the Department of Politics and International Relations, says, ‘This multi-wave study gives us a rare glimpse of whose opinions have shifted and why. People have become massively more supportive of taking the vaccine overall but important gaps remain especially among groups whose trust in politicians is typically lower: non-voters, younger citizens, and poorer households.’

‘When so much of the UK Government’s lockdown exit strategy rests on successful vaccine roll out, these insights will be of immediate importance to policymakers in both their internal deliberation on policy and their outward facing communication with the public.’

People have become massively more supportive of taking the vaccine overall but important gaps remain especially among groups whose trust in politicians is typically lower: non-voters, younger citizens, and poorer households

Professor Ben Ansell

The study, part of the University of Oxford funded research project ‘Coping with COVID-19’, was conducted on a representative sample of over 1,600 UK mainland adults using the polling company YouGov. Over 1,200 respondents responded to both the October and February surveys. The study was co-authored by scholars from the University of Oxford, London School of Economics, and University College London.

The Coping with COVID-19 project aims to discover what factors affect trust in the government’s coronavirus strategy.

Full Report, with data and graphs:

Ansell, B., Bauer, M.W., Gingrich, J. and Stilgoe, J. Coping With Covid: Two-Wave Survey



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