► 14.6 percent of respondents nationally say they have no plans to be vaccinated

    ► 54.1 percent of them say nothing will change their mind about receiving ‘jab’

ST. LEO, FL – While a majority (82.1 percent) of Americans recently surveyed by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute (https://polls.saintleo.edu) say they have been vaccinated against COVID-19, 14.6 percent say they have no plans to be vaccinated. In a separate poll of 500 people in Florida, 14 percent say they do not plan to “get the jab.”

The Saint Leo University poll was conducted online, October 17-23, among 1,000 total respondents nationally. The resulting margin of error for the results is 3.0 percentage points in either direction. In Florida, 500 additional people were polled. The margin of error for the responses is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Saint Leo’s poll examined several issues related to the novel coronavirus pandemic and vaccinations. The poll found that the leading reasons people cited for not being vaccinated include:  concerns about vaccine safety, conflicting views of various health agencies and political leaders, and having been infected with the virus already so the respondents believe they have antibodies to protect them.

“Fourteen to 15 percent of the respondents indicated that have not received nor plan to receive the vaccination, and of this, more than half indicate that they are simply opposed to the vaccine,” said Dr. Christopher Wolfe, associate professor of psychology for Saint Leo University. “What is the likelihood that these individuals will change or come to choose the vaccination route? My guess is that within this group there will be little change and that it more likely they become more and more ingrained in their opposition to the vaccination.”

Among respondents nationally who say they will not receive the vaccine (14.6 percent) are: 19.2 percent of Republican respondents, 6.4 of Democratic, and 17.2 percent of independent respondents. Looking at the education levels of national respondents, 27.5 percent of those who graduated high school say they will not receive the vaccine while 16.7 percent of college graduates and 8.1 percent of those with post-bachelor’s degrees say they will not be vaccinated.

Income also appears to be a factor, as 93 percent of those with incomes of $100,000-plus say they are vaccinated or will be, as compared to the 5.6 percent of respondents from that income grouping who say they will not receive the immunization. Among those who report making less than $40,000: 73.8 percent have or will be vaccinated and 21.3 percent will not. In the $40,000-to- less than $100,000 range, 80.2 percent report they have received or will receive the vaccine and 16.3 percent they will not get the vaccine.

The polling institute asked those who did not receive or plan to receive a vaccination their reasons for not doing so. Reasons are shown in declining order by national frequency of mention.

Reasons for Not Receiving the Vaccination National October 2021  – % Florida October 2021  – %
Have concerns over the safety of the vaccinations  60.3  71.4
Conflicting views of various health care agencies and political leaders  32.9  30.0
I have had COVID-19 already, so I have the antibodies  21.9  18.6
Medical reasons  16.4  11.4
Religious reasons  14.4  15.7
Other  6.2  7.1
Unsure  5.5  2.9


Those who say they are unvaccinated and unwilling to receive the vaccination also were asked what they needed to see, if anything, in order to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. Results are displayed here in declining order by national results.

What Will You Need to See to Receive Vaccination? National October 2021 – %  Florida October 2021

– %

Nothing, I am opposed to getting the vaccination  54.1  52.9
More research on resulting effects of vaccinations  24.7  28.6
More on reasons why those who have already had COVID-19 need to be vaccinated  13.0  8.6
Clearer and more consistent advice from health care agencies and political leaders  12.3  5.7
Unsure  8.9  8.6
If forced to because of work  6.8  7.1
Fewer restrictions – more freedoms  5.5  10.0
Other  2.7  1.4


Wolfe, the associate professor of psychology said he thinks there are two common “heuristics”—approaches to decision-making—at play among the Saint Leo University poll respondents who say they will not receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

“The first is commitment bias,” Wolfe said. “Overall, humans see value in the consistency of others; we praise those that stick to their stated goals or beliefs. This is especially true when those views are made public.

“In this group of never-vaxxers, their beliefs about the vaccination are likely already known to others in their life,” Wolfe continued. “They’ve likely told others they aren’t getting the vaccine and do not plan to under any circumstances. Given that, to change their mind now would suggest they have been in the wrong, and the damage they perceive this change would do to their social status, choosing to change would require great insight and self-acceptance.”

Working in conjunction with that, confirmation bias is aiding to support those choosing not be vaccinated. “Once humans commit to a plan of action or belief system we tend to demonstrate a preference for information that confirms our own decisions. For example, if you believe your house is haunted, then every creak of floorboards is a ghost. Looking for and focusing only on information that confirms our suspicions can help breed confidence in our choices, but is only presenting a part of the full picture and leads to ignoring factually correct and pertinent information supporting the alternative view.”

Influencing vaccination decisions

As part of a Catholic university, the Saint Leo University Polling Institute regularly polls on issues related to Pope Francis and the Catholic Church. In August, Pope Francis encouraged people to become vaccinated. “Thanks to God’s grace and to the work of many, we now have vaccines to protect us from COVID-19,” he said in a video statement. The pope said vaccines, “bring hope to end the pandemic, but only if they are available to all and if we collaborate with one another.”

In the October 2021 poll, respondents were asked how strongly they supported or opposed the pope’s statement calling for vaccinations. Pope Francis urged everyone to get vaccinated, if available, against the COVID-19 virus. Respondents were asked how strongly they supported or opposed his statement calling for vaccinations.  Nationally, a large percent, 68.5 percent say they support the pontiff’s statement with 47.4 percent saying they strongly agree and 21.1 percent saying they somewhat agree. Opposing views are held at 10 percent strongly opposing and 11.7 percent somewhat opposing the pope encouraging vaccinations.

The poll followed by asking respondents who say they are aware that Pope Francis encouraged vaccination how much influence his endorsement of the COVID-19 vaccine had on their decision regarding receiving it. Of those saying Pope Francis influenced their decision, 17.2 percent say he exerted significant influence while 19.1 percent said he had some sway with their decision—for 36.3 percent total. On the flip side, 12.8 percent say the pontiff’s statement had little impact on them and 43.5 percent say the pope had no influence on their decision for a total of 56.3 percent. Another 7.4 percent report being unsure or not knowing.

Dr. Stephen Okey, associate professor of religion and theology for Saint Leo University, said, “This suggests that a majority of people, across a range of political positions, have formed their opinions about vaccination [positively or negatively] either independent of, or even in advance of, any statement by the pope on the issue.”

Okey noted, “Unsurprisingly, Catholics were significantly more likely to attribute some influence to Pope Francis in their decisions about vaccination than other religious groups, but that influence is still about a 50/50 split.”

Among Catholic poll respondents, 48.9 percent say the pope influenced them while 44.9 percent say he did not affect their decision. Those who identified as being non-Catholic Christians responded saying 34.9 percent were influenced by Pope Francis, but 57.2 say they were not. Polling was equal at 46.2 percent by those who are of other religions with 46.2 percent saying they were influenced and 46.2 percent saying they were not. Poll respondents who are said they do not belong to a religion who say Pope Francis influenced their vaccine decision is 19.2 percent while 74.8 percent say he did not affect their choice.

While it is “encouraging to see so many at least taking into consideration what the pope has said about vaccination,” religious affiliation makes a difference in the degree of influence reported, said Dr. Marc Pugliese, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and an associate professor of religion and theology.

Pugliese noted that “Among the various religious groups, the highest percentage who report being influenced in their own decision-making by the pope’s urging of vaccination is Catholic (48.9 percent), a slightly less percentage among other religious groups report being influenced (46.2 percent), and only a very small percentage of those in the ‘no religion’ category report being influenced (19.2 percent).”

About the Poll

METHODOLOGY: This national survey was conducted from October 17, 2021, through October 23, 2021, among a base of 1,000 respondents nationally, using an online instrument. The national sample has an associated margin of error of +/- 3.0 percent at a 95 percent confidence for questions asked of all 1,000 respondents.

The statewide survey was also conducted during the same time period, among a base of 500 respondents, using an online instrument. The sample has an associated margin of error of +/- 4.5 percent at a 95 percent confidence for questions asked of all 500 respondents.

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute conducts its surveys using cutting-edge online methodology, which is rapidly transforming the field of survey research. The sample is drawn from large online panels, which allow for random selections that reflect accurate cross sections of all demographic groups. Online methodology has the additional advantage of allowing participants to respond to the survey at a time, place, and speed that is convenient to them, which may result in more thoughtful answers. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute develops the questionnaires, administers the surveys, and conducts analysis of the results. Panel participants typically receive a token incentive—usually $1 deposited into an iTunes or Amazon account—for their participation.

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey results about national and Florida politics, public policy issues, Pope Francis’ popularity, and other topics, can also be found here: http://polls.saintleo.edu. You can also follow the institute on Twitter @saintleopolls.

Media contacts:

Mary McCoy, Saint Leo University, University Writer & Media Relations, mary.mccoy02@saintleo.edu, (352) 588-7118 or cell (813) 610-8416.

Jo-Ann Johnston, Saint Leo University, University Communications jo-ann.johnston@saintleo.edu or (352) 467-0843 (cell/text).   

About Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University is one of the largest Catholic universities in the nation, offering 57 undergraduate and graduate-level degree programs to more than 18,200 students each year. Founded in 1889 by Benedictine monks, the private, nonprofit university is known for providing a values-based education to learners of all backgrounds and ages in the liberal arts tradition. Saint Leo is regionally accredited and offers a residential campus in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, 16 education centers in five states, and an online program for students anywhere. The university is home to more than 98,000 alumni. Learn more at saintleo.edu.