Persuading US White evangelicals to vaccinate for COVID-19: Testing message effectiveness in fall 2020 and spring 2021
[…] In the United States, White evangelicals have proven to be a particularly difficult group to convince to get vaccinated. Here we investigate whether this group can be persuaded to get vaccinated. To do this, we leverage data from two survey experiments, one fielded prior to approval of COVID-19 vaccines (study 1) and one fielded after approval (study 2). In both experiments, respondents were randomly assigned to treatment messages to promote COVID-19 vaccination. In study 1, we find that a message that emphasizes community interest and reciprocity with an invocation of embarrassment for choosing not to vaccinate is the most effective at increasing uptake intentions, while values-consistent messaging appears to be ineffective. In contrast, in study 2 we observe that this message is no longer effective and that most messages produce little change in vaccine intent. This inconsistency may be explained by the characteristics of White evangelicals who remain unvaccinated vis à vis those who got vaccinated. These results demonstrate the importance of retesting messages over time, the apparent limitations of values-targeted messaging, and document the need to consider heterogeneity even within well-defined populations. This work also cautions against drawing broad conclusions from studies carried out at a single point in time during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Keywords: COVID-19; White evangelicals; persuasion; vaccination.