22% of Americans identify as anti-vaxxers as a reflection of their ‘social identity’, poll finds

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Credit: Nature
Credit: Nature

A study of more than 1,000 demographically representative participants found that about 22 percent of Americans self-identify as anti-vaxxers, and tend to embrace the label as a form of social identity.

Researchers also found that participants who scored high on the anti-vaccine identity measure were less trusting of scientific experts and more individualistic. Additionally, study results show that there is increased opposition to childhood vaccine requirements among those who self-identify as anti-vaxxers.

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The study serves as a “blueprint” for other researchers to further examine how socially identifying as an anti-vaxxer impacts health policies and public health. [Researcher Timothy] Callaghan notes that Americans socially identifying as anti-vaxxers adds another layer of complexity to mitigating the anti-vaccine movement. Changing a core feature of one’s underlying social identity is a difficult task — one that likely cannot be fixed with traditional public health messaging.

Moving forward, Callaghan and other members of the research team hope to investigate how endorsement of the anti-vaccine label varies across the country based on states and levels of rurality, as well as interventions that might reduce individuals’ social attachment to the label.

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