Millsaps College/Chism Strategies State of the State Survey: Voters Unsure about COVID-19 Vaccine

An alarming number of Mississippi voters, nearly 50%, say they may refuse to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or are unsure if they will get it when it becomes available to them, and just over half report they will either definitely or probably receive the vaccine. The findings of the newly released Millsaps College/Chism Strategies State of the State Survey illustrate the challenges that lie ahead for state leaders, public health officials and leaders in the medical profession who are attempting to combat the coronavirus, slow its spread and convince Magnolia Staters that they should take the virus—and the vaccine—as seriously as possible.

Millsaps College and Chism Strategies have conducted the quarterly State of the State Survey since 2017 in an effort to provide an unbiased, academic view of current political issues in Mississippi through the responses of its citizens.

The data shows that Mississippians between the ages of 18 to 34 and 45 to 54, those living in northern Mississippi’s First Congressional District and voters who describe their politics as being “very conservative” appear to be the most skeptical of receiving the vaccine at this time. Meanwhile, voters over 55, those living in central Mississippi’s Second and Third Congressional Districts, Democrats and those who identify politically as moderates or liberals are the most likely to say they will definitely or probably get vaccinated when the time comes.

Meanwhile, the State of the State Survey finds that Governor Tate Reeves is hemorrhaging support among Mississippi voters at the close of his first year in office. Reeves ends his first year as governor with 34% approving of his performance and nearly 50% disapproving. Voters have soured on Reeves considerably, as his net approval rating declined from +28 points in June 2020 to -15 points in January 2021. This comes with a mixed bag of findings regarding perceptions of Reeves’ handling of the coronavirus pandemic, as 37% of voters believe his crisis management of the pandemic has been excellent/good, 26% say it has just been fair and 35% say it has been poor/totally unacceptable.

“Our 13th quarterly survey addresses several sobering and troublesome issues facing our state including the coronavirus pandemic, drastically changing the way we collect tax revenue in Mississippi and trying to sort out how and why Mississippians made their choices in the 2020 presidential election,” said Dr. Nathan Shrader, chair of the Department of Government and Politics at Millsaps College. “We sincerely hope that this information will prove to be beneficial for our lawmakers as they return to Jackson for the 2021 legislative session, to the news media who informs us about politics and the voters themselves.”

Other Key Findings:

  • Mississippi voters are evenly divided on the state’s direction, with 35% saying we are moving in the right direction, 39% in the wrong direction and 26% unsure.
  • Approximately 34% approve of the performance of Governor Tate Reeves, while 49% disapprove. Another 18% are unsure at this time.
    Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann currently has a 39% approval rating, with nearly a quarter saying they disapprove. 37% did not have enough information to evaluate his performance.
  • Voters are evenly divided on the performance of Attorney General Lynn Fitch with 33% approving, 34% disapproving and 32% lacking sufficient information about her work.
  • The Mississippi Legislature remains underwater with voters. Just 27% approve of the body’s performance, compared to 44% who disapprove and 29% who say they don’t have enough information to rate their work.
  • A small plurality of 22% say making healthcare more accessible and affordable to Mississippians should be the top priority for legislators, followed by 18% who say fixing roads and bridges should be the top priority.
  • 42% believe the measures taken by Mississippi’s state government have not gone far enough to stop the spread of COVID-19. 36% feel the measures have been appropriate, while just 16% say the state has gone too far already.
  • Just over 42% favor eliminating the state’s income tax as proposed by Governor Reeves, a proposition opposed by 36% of voters. Another 22% remain unsure.
  • The majority of Mississippians continue to support early voting in the state, as 55% back the policy and just 38% are opposed.
  • Only 3% of Mississippi voters support moving to exclusively vote-by-mail elections. 56% favor continuing in-person voting only, while 37% back utilizing a mix of in-person and vote-by-mail methods.
  • Nearly 70% of Donald Trump voters in Mississippi supported him because they agreed with him on most policy issues. 36% of Biden voters here backed him because of policy agreement while 26% were voting against Trump, the Republicans and conservative policy.
  • The state’s electorate is significantly more conservative ideologically and Republican from a partisan standpoint than the rest of the nation, with considerably fewer liberal and moderate voters than the national electorate.

“We are pleased to partner with Millsaps College in providing another quarterly measure of public opinion on a range of issues. They have proven quite useful as our elected officials consider policy options,” said Brad Chism, president of Chism Strategies.

The survey was conducted from December 18-20, 2020 with a sample size of 649, with 54% of interviews conducted via cell phone and 46% via landline. The survey has a Margin of Error of +/3.85%. Results were weighted to reflect voter turnout for the 2020 Mississippi elections.

Read the full detailed report here.

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