Moral intuitions and vaccine hesitancy during the COVID-19 pandemic

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Background: While the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in millions of deaths worldwide, the rapid development and distribution of novel vaccines reduced the scale of severe illness and death. Even so, many people remain unvaccinated. Objective: We investigate the extent to which various moral intuitions are associated with COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy. Methods: We use data from a 2021 national YouGov sample of U.S. adults and logistic regression to examine the association between moral intuitions, net of other factors, and getting vaccinated for COVID-19. Results: Individualizing moral intuitions, which emphasize care and fairness, are positively associated with the likelihood of getting vaccinated. We also find that binding moral intuitions—which emphasize loyalty, respect for authority, and sanctity of the human body—are negatively associated with getting vaccinated and that this association is driven largely by sanctity. Finally, those whose moral intuitions emphasize liberty are significantly less likely to get vaccinated. Conclusion: Moral intuitions are strongly associated with vaccine hesitancy, suggesting that the success of public health measures during a global health crisis depends on addressing the variety of underlying moral concerns that influence people's attitudes and behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)230-247
Number of pages18
JournalSocial Science Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


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