Morning Consult: Americans support Biden's federal employer vaccine mandate, 58/36

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

There’ll be half a dozen polls on this question before the week is through, I’m sure. Here’s our first data point in sussing out whether Biden’s power grab is a political winner or loser.

Although even if the polling to come is consistent with this one, with around 60 percent of the public in favor, an intensity gap could swallow Biden and his party. Gun-grabbing proposals tend to poll well but probably help Republican turnout on balance by galvanizing impassioned gun-rights supporters in opposition. The same could be true with Biden’s mandate. Liberals and indies may be okay with it while Republicans are enraged by it whether because they’re anti-mandate, anti-vax, or both.

Still, a good start for Team Joe:

I’m surprised to see Republican support for the mandate as high as 33 percent. Biden gambled that the vaccinated’s anger at the unvaccinated for prolonging the pandemic would trump their distaste for a dubious one-size-fits-all federal workplace requirement. The fact that he got a third of the GOP to agree with him means there may be something to that. The mandate implicitly asks people to decide who their political “tribe” is in this instance: Is it their party, as it customarily is, or is it their vaccine cohort, i.e. whether they’re vaccinated or not? If you peek at the crosstabs you’ll find that 69 percent of Americans who’ve had one vaccine dose at least somewhat support Biden’s policy while just 22 percent of the unvaccinated do.

For a lot of vaxxed Republicans, it seems, being vaccinated is the filter through which they approach this issue, not being Republican.

This morning I speculated that voters might be more chilly towards an employer mandate imposed from distant Washington D.C. than they would be to one imposed by their local government but Morning Consult’s data doesn’t bear that out. They asked about local mandates and found the numbers weren’t much different than they were for the federal mandate:

Sixty-one support local mandates, 58 percent support the federal one. That goes to show that Americans don’t care about procedural niceties, I suppose, even though the “niceties” in this case involve momentous questions about whether OSHA is a de facto enabling act for the president to manage Americans’ health through workplace regulations.

Relatedly, there’s a big warning sign for Biden in the Morning Consult data:

That’s close to an even split. And yet 58 percent support the federal mandate despite the narrow divide on this threshold philosophical question. All I can think is that some Americans are so eager to end the pandemic that they’re willing to back Biden up on his new policy even though they believes it violates civil rights. (Fifty-seven percent in this poll said they thought the mandate would probably reduce COVID cases in the U.S.) That’s a frightening result but it also vindicates Biden’s belief that the vaccinated majority will let him do what he wants to do if it pays off by ending the pandemic soon.

Speaking of vaccine mandates, remember when Delta Air Lines made news last month by hiking insurance premiums on its unvaccinated employees? Their CEO was asked recently if the policy was working. Answer: Yep.

Delta Air Lines said a fifth of its unvaccinated employees received a COVID-19 shot in the two weeks since the airline announced that they would be subject to a $200 monthly surcharge, providing support for companies that are hesitant to impose mandates.

The carrier also hasn’t seen a rise in employee turnover, Chief Health Officer Henry Ting said at a media briefing Thursday. Delta’s employee vaccination rate has increased to 78% from 74% since it became the first major U.S. employer to levy a penalty. Separately, new data from the Society for Human Resource Management found that employees might threaten to quit over a mandate but haven’t really done so thus far.

United Airlines imposed a more draconian policy, ordering unvaccinated employees to get their shots or go on unpaid leave until COVID is less of a threat. That policy is working better, according to United’s CEO:

CHANG: Well tell me, how has your vaccine mandate been working so far? I’m curious about, like, what percentage of United employees have in fact complied since the announcement back in August?

KIRBY: Well, well over 50% of our unvaccinated employees have already been vaccinated

[T]he largest increases have been on the ramp and in our technical operations group, but that’s only because they started with the lowest vaccination rate.

Kirby didn’t address how many employees have left the company in protest, but as you can see from the first excerpt, Delta hasn’t faced any labor shortages. With millions of Americans still unemployed due to pandemic layoffs, one would assume it won’t be hard to replace some workers who quit over a mandate. Especially now that Biden’s nationwide rule leaves them with few employment alternatives, at least among businesses with more than 100 employees.

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