As the omicron variant of COVID-19 spreads across the U.S., heightening tensions around vaccine mandates and religious exemption claims, the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) released their Wave 3 of their Religion and the Vaccine Survey on Dec. 6.
The new survey reveals that only one in 10 Americans believe the teachings of their religion prohibit COVID-19 vaccinations; nearly nine-in-10 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 no valid religious reasons exist to refuse a COVID-19 vaccine. In addition, the majorities of every major religious group agree, except white evangelical Protestants (41%).
“The wide berth allowed for the expression and practice of religions, codified in our Constitution and laws, are bedrock American principles,” said PRRI CEO and founder Robert P. Jones. “But Americans also believe that principles of religious liberty are not absolute but rather should be balanced with the health and well-being of our communities.”
The survey also revealed that three-in-10 unvaccinated Americans say they have asked for or plan to ask for a religious exemption to vaccination. In addition, one-in-five parents of unvaccinated children under age 18 says they have requested or will request a religious exemption for their children.
According to the report, white evangelicals stand out among the unvaccinated, with about four-in-10 saying they plan to ask for a religious exemption to vaccination requirements.
Additional Key Findings in the PRRI–IFYC Report
Four-in-10 Americans agree “the government is not telling 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 whom a majority believe this conspiracy theory.
- Less than half of Americans believe that no one should be allowed to claim an exemption from receiving a COVID-19 vaccine based on their religious beliefs.
- One-in-four Americans who are not vaccinated say a critical reason they have not gotten a COVID-19 vaccine is their belief that the seriousness of COVID-19 has been overblown. An additional 39% say that is one of the reasons but not a critical one.
- One-in-five vaccinated Americans (19%), including 26% of Black Americans, say they could easily get to a vaccine site nearby as a critical reason for getting vaccinated.
- Four-in-10 vaccinated Americans cite wanting to protect those who cannot get vaccinated as a critical reason for their decision to get a vaccine.
“This survey also shows that religious interventions have worked,” said IFYC president and founder Eboo Patel. “When pastors encourage vaccination and mosques hold vaccine clinics, more people get vaccinated. Faith-based groups remain ready to play our role, but we need partners. If we are going to defeat the omicron variant, philanthropy, the private sector and government will have to step up.”