Week of 10/18: Employer Vaccine Mandates

Josh Berezin, Lead Strategist

Summary: We found promising initial evidence that a “respect the rules” message can persuade Republican and conservative voters to support a vaccine mandate.

This research was conducted in partnership with Strategic Victory Fund.

Background

Inspired by the Southwest Airlines flight cancellations on October 9 and 10 and the misinformation that propagated in their wake, we conducted an Audience Understanding survey and Rapid Message Test to explore several approaches to responding to right-wing talking points about vaccine mandates generally, and to the new rule the Biden administration is developing to require vaccination or weekly testing for businesses with over 100 employees.

We tested a range of messages in support of employer vaccination mandates, using themes around the military and patriotism, small business and freedom, safety and responsibility, and a strict mother’s respect for the rules.

We wanted to know how these messages performed in the face of Republican misinformation, so respondents saw an anti-vaccination mandate message from Ted Cruz before seeing one of the pro-vaccination mandate messages listed above.

Findings

Unsurprisingly, one size did not fit all. At a population-wide level, none of the groups that saw both the Ted Cruz message along with one of our messages ended up more supportive of employer COVID vaccine mandates by a statistically significant margin. In fact, people who saw the Ted Cruz message and then our military/patriotism message ended up ten points lower in support.

However, within the subgroup of people who voted for Trump in 2020, the strict mom message increased support above and beyond the baseline, moving support for employer COVID vaccine mandates from 21% up to 50%. Looking at results for self-identified Republican voters, and for voters of any party who identify as conservative, we see very similar effects, which increases our confidence in this finding.

bar graph of support levels by treatment assignment condition

Support for employer vaccine mandates among Trump voters by message

The main theme of this message was “Rules are rules. Vaccine mandates are coming, and I expect people to follow the rules.” The message also had a distinct tone that used emotional references to memories of one’s childhood.

Directional results for the strict mom message among men and women indicate that it was likely much more effective among men than women.

In short, we have a message here that, even in the face of Ted Cruz’s anti-mandate message, moves Republican men significantly.

We recommend deploying this message among Republican men, as well as testing variations on its theme again, either in isolation or in the context of other opposition messages.

Full text of the messages and the outcome question are in the appendix below. If you’d like to see the results, feel free to email us at hello (at) growprogress.ai.

 

Appendix

 

Messages & Outcome Questions

Participants saw the following opposition message:

Opposition Message

Senator Ted Cruz:

President Biden’s latest and most far-reaching COVID mandate completely ignores science. Forcibly vaccinating people who already have immunity ignores medical data and is a brazen violation of Americans’ privacy rights.

The federal government has no authority to force businesses in Texas and across the country to mandate their employees get vaccinated. American businesses are still recovering from this past year and a half. It is cruel and burdensome to impose this authoritarian mandate.

While I support the vaccine and have received it, Americans have the right to exercise personal choice when it comes to their health.

 

In addition to one of the following messages or the placebo:

 

Patriotism/military

The strength of the nation’s armed forces is one of the most important things holding us together as a nation, and we honor our generals and admirals for leading the way. In late August, the Department of Defense announced that all members of the armed forces will be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Admiral William Lescher, Vice Chief of Naval Operations said, “Sailors must be prepared to execute their mission at all times, including where vaccination rates are low and disease transmission is high. Immunizations are of paramount importance to the warfighting readiness of the Fleet.”

 

Freedom/small business

I served in the Marines and now I own a car repair shop. I’ve seen a lot, and I’m not afraid of covid. But a lot of my customers seem to be. Everyone should be able to make up their own minds, but if this thing spreads, a lot of us are gonna be out of a job. As a small business owner, my freedom depends on keeping folks walking in that door. So I’m requiring my crew to get the vaccine, because it means my shop stays open.

 

Safety/responsibility

Anyone who’s ever put their body on the line working a construction site knows that keeping yourself and your crew safe means playing by the safety rules: you get trained up, you wear your protective equipment, and you watch where you step. And if your employer puts a vaccine requirement in place? You get the vaccine and you get back to the job.

 

Strict mom/law and order

My mom always had clear rules: shoes off when you come in the door, no swearing, mind your manners, and treat your family and those around you with respect. Mom is no longer with us, but I can imagine what she’d say about how some folks are treating health care workers during the pandemic: throwing fits, even assaulting those who try to take care of their family members in their last days.

Rules are rules. Vaccine mandates are coming, and I expect people to follow the rules, get their shots, and act as if law and order means something again.

 

The Placebo

Your local Helpful Honda Dealer is here for you in these unprecedented times. We get you where you need to go, safety first.

 

After randomized message exposure, the test participants were then asked the following question:

Under Biden’s Path Out of the Pandemic plan, businesses with at least 100 employees will soon be required to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work. This rule will impact over 80 million workers in businesses with 100+ employees.

Which of the following is closer to your view?

A: Employer COVID vaccine mandates will disrupt the economy by forcing unvaccinated workers out of crucial jobs.
B: Employer COVID vaccine mandates will help get the economy back to normal by making people feel safer coming to work.

Answer Options:
  • Employer COVID vaccine mandates will definitely disrupt the economy
  • Employer COVID vaccine mandates will probably disrupt the economy
  • Employer COVID vaccine mandates will probably help the economy
  • Employer COVID vaccine mandates will definitely help the economy
Key Experiment Details
  • Audience: All adults, balanced on age, race, and gender
  • Geography: the United States
  • Sample size (raw / weighted): 998 / 996
  • Dates in field: Wednesday, October 20, 2021 to Thursday, October 21, 2021
  • Weighting factors: age, race, gender, education, and party