Poll: Public doubts official claims on outbreak in Washington state

A year after the outbreak of measles in Washington state linked to parents who either don’t believe in vaccines or refuse to vaccinate their children, many Washington residents doubt health authorities’ claims that their…

Poll: Public doubts official claims on outbreak in Washington state

A year after the outbreak of measles in Washington state linked to parents who either don’t believe in vaccines or refuse to vaccinate their children, many Washington residents doubt health authorities’ claims that their child is safe from illness, according to a new Washington Post-Fox News poll.

Among respondents who say they or a loved one had a child with measles this year, 32 percent believe the outbreak is an example of the disease spreading because too many Washingtonians don’t vaccinate their children. Only 24 percent of the overall public thinks that’s a good thing.

The proportion of Washington adults who doubt the outbreak is directly linked to parents’ refusal to vaccinate their children is 34 percent, meaning that 59 percent of Washington state residents think the measles outbreak is due to weak public health laws.

Among those Washingtonians who say they don’t vaccinate their children, 73 percent believe the outbreak is an example of widespread vaccine resistance. Just a quarter, though, say measles spread because so many Washingtonians don’t vaccinate their children.

Among those who said they have a loved one who had measles this year, 65 percent say the outbreak is an example of vaccine resistance. Just 28 percent believe it’s an example of weak public health laws.

Overall, the poll found that just 35 percent of Washington state adults say they have heard a lot about the Washington measles outbreak, while 60 percent say they have heard less than a lot about it.

Among the adults who say they’ve heard a lot about the measles outbreak, 49 percent say that under the law parents should vaccinate their children, while 44 percent say that if a family can’t afford to vaccinate their children then they should be allowed to opt out. That is in line with the 41 percent of parents of school-age children who said so in the survey.

The poll found significant partisan differences over the mandate. Among Democrats, just 28 percent oppose a law that would allow children to get vaccinated without parental consent. By contrast, 76 percent of Republicans support parental consent.

The Post-Fox News poll was conducted by telephone Aug. 17-21 among a random statewide sample of 1,001 adults, including 792 who have a child under the age of 18. Results based on the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points; among subsamples of 600 respondents, the margin is plus or minus 4.6 percentage points.

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