One in 10 Americans says COVID-19 vaccinations conflict with religious beliefs: survey

As the omicron variant of COVID-19 spreads in the United States, heightening tensions around vaccination mandates and religious exemption demands, the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) have published their wave 3 of their religion and vaccines survey on December 6.

New survey finds only one in 10 Americans believe their religion’s teachings prohibit COVID-19 vaccinations; nearly nine in ten disagree. Additionally, six in 10 Americans agree that too many people continue to use religion as an excuse to avoid vaccine requirements.

Similarly, six in 10 Americans believe there is no valid religious reason to refuse a COVID-19 vaccine. Additionally, majorities of all major religious groups agree, with the exception of white evangelical Protestants (41%).

“The broad emphasis on the expression and practice of religions, codified in our Constitution and laws, are fundamental American principles,” said PRRI CEO and Founder Robert P. Jones. “But Americans also believe that the principles of religious freedom are not absolute but rather must be balanced with the health and well-being of our communities.”

The survey also found that three in 10 unvaccinated Americans say they have requested or plan to request a religious exemption from vaccination. In addition, one in five parents of unvaccinated children under 18 say they have requested or will request a religious dispensation for their children.

According to the report, white evangelicals stand out among the unvaccinated, with about four in 10 saying they plan to apply for a religious exemption from vaccination requirements.

Key additional findings from the PRRI-IFYC report

Four in 10 Americans agree that “the government doesn’t tell us about other treatments for COVID-19 that are just as effective as the vaccine.” Republicans are twice as likely as Democrats to believe this conspiracy theory. White evangelical Protestants are the only major religious group among which a majority believes in this conspiracy theory.

  • Less than half of Americans think no one should be allowed to request a waiver from receiving a COVID-19 vaccine because of their religious beliefs.
  • One in four Americans who are unvaccinated say a key reason they have not received a COVID-19 vaccine is their belief that the severity of COVID-19 has been exaggerated. Another 39% say it’s one of the reasons, but not the main one.
  • One in five vaccinated Americans (19%), including 26% of black Americans, say they could easily go to a nearby vaccination site as their main reason for getting vaccinated.
  • Four in 10 vaccinated Americans cite wanting to protect those who cannot get vaccinated as the primary reason for their decision to get vaccinated.

“This survey also shows that religious interventions have worked,” said IFYC President and Founder Eboo Patel. “When pastors encourage vaccination and mosques hold vaccination clinics, more people get vaccinated. Faith groups remain ready to play our part, but we need partners. If we are to defeat the omicron variant, philanthropy, the private sector, and government will need to step up their efforts.

Ruth R. Culp