Health

Vaccine Denial and the Left

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyApr 20, 2011 12:53 PM

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Kevin Drum has blogged my MoJo piece, and while he likes it, he adds this:

...be prepared to be annoyed when Chris wrenches his spine out of shape bending over backward to find an example of liberals denying science as much as conservatives. It might be true that you can find vaccine deniers in the aisles of Whole Foods, but if there's any rigorous evidence that belief in the vaccine-autism link is especially pronounced or widespread among liberals, I haven't seen it. Surely there's a better, more substantive example than that floating around somewhere?

So I want to further explain my assertion that vaccine denial "largely occupies" the political left. It arises, basically, from my long familiarity with this issue, having read numerous books about it, etc. First, it is certainly true that environmentalists and Hollywood celebrities have been the loudest proponents of anti-vaccine views. To me, that is evidence, although not necessarily definitive. So is the fact that we see dangerously large clusters of the unvaccinated in places like Ashland, Oregon, and Boulder, Colorado, which are very leftwing cities. What's tricky is, there's not a standard left-right political ideology underlying this. Rather, it seems more associated with a Whole Foods and au natural lifestyle that, while certainly more prominent on the bicoastal left, isn't the same as being outraged by inequality or abuses of the free market. It's also the case that there are some elected Republicans (Dan Burton) who have supported anti-vax views, and few elected Democrats who support them. This makes the issue complicated. Finally, there's the question of polling data, which is what Drum asked for. As far as I can tell, there's very little and hardly definitive. That may be the subject of a future post.

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