Poll: 59% of Dems support house arrest for unvaxxed, 45% support sending them to "designated facilities"

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File

This survey from Rasmussen is a few days old but worth posting belatedly on pure “hoooooo boy” grounds.

Hoooooo boy.

I remember when Obama was president there would occasionally be polls asking people if they believed the latest outlandish claim about him (e.g., his birth certificate was doctored) and there’d always be high numbers of Republicans who said yes. But some analysts at the time pointed out that it wasn’t really the case that all Republicans who answered “yes” believed it. Some were simply responding to a partisan cue, signaling their disapproval of a politician whom they despised by choosing the least flattering option in any question posed about him. You could have asked them if they thought Obama was a werewolf and some of them would have said “absolutely.” A vampire too? Sure, fine.

There must be an element of that in these results too. Ask extremely pro-vax Democrats whether the unvaccinated should be sanctioned and some will agree before you’ve even finished the question. “Do you think we should punish people who refuse to get their shots by—-” “YES, 100 PERCENT YES.” Obviously not every Dem who says they’d favor house arrest for the unvaxxed, for instance, would condone that policy if the White House began semi-seriously murmuring about the logistics involved.

But by the same token, tribal signaling can’t explain all of these numbers. Some meaningful share of lefties really must be willing to impose grossly unconstitutional authoritarian penalties on the unvaccinated to force them to comply. A majority of lefties? Likely not. A frighteningly large minority? Yeah, pretty clearly. It’s not just the editorial board of the Salt Lake Tribune that’s lost its mind. In particular, I doubt the second result listed here is much of an exaggeration of true Democratic opinion:

– Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Democratic voters would favor a government policy requiring that citizens remain confined to their homes at all times, except for emergencies, if they refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Such a proposal is opposed by 61% of all likely voters, including 79% of Republicans and 71% of unaffiliated voters.

– Nearly half (48%) of Democratic voters think federal and state governments should be able to fine or imprison individuals who publicly question the efficacy of the existing COVID-19 vaccines on social media, television, radio, or in online or digital publications. Only 27% of all voters – including just 14% of Republicans and 18% of unaffiliated voters – favor criminal punishment of vaccine critics.

– Forty-five percent (45%) of Democrats would favor governments requiring citizens to temporarily live in designated facilities or locations if they refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Such a policy would be opposed by a strong majority (71%) of all voters, with 78% of Republicans and 64% of unaffiliated voters saying they would Strongly Oppose putting the unvaccinated in “designated facilities.”

Fifty-eight percent of Dems would support fining the unvaccinated. Almost 50 percent would support letting the government track them. And 29 percent would support … temporarily removing custody of their children.

That one bothers me almost as much as the 45 percent who want to relocate the unvaccinated to camps. I mean “designated facilities.”

The answer on “designated facilities” is revealing in that it’s not just insanely draconian, it’s bad science. The last thing you’d want to do is cluster unvaccinated people together where an outbreak might cause lots of severe illness rapidly. It’s better to have the unvaccinated spread out among vaccinated people, whose immunity from strains like Alpha and Delta might help limit transmission. When you’ve arrived at the “send ’em to camps” stage of anger at the unvaxxed, you’re no longer aiming to stop the spread. You’re just looking to punish the holdouts for nonconformity.

And tightening the screws on the unvaxxed makes less sense than it did before now that an immune-evasive variant like Omicron is dominant. It was one thing to want to segregate the unvaccinated via vaccine passports nine months ago, when — briefly — they were the only group carrying enough virus to infect those around them. We’re waaaaaaay past that. In the age of Omicron, the only thing you might achieve from a public health perspective by compelling vaccination is reducing the load on hospitals. And even then, it wouldn’t happen overnight. By the time the five or six weeks needed to develop immunity from two shots had passed, America would probably be past its Omicron wave.

I can understand why Quebec, for instance, wants to impose a special tax on the unvaccinated. That isn’t pure punishment, it’s a matter of making them internalize an externality they’re imposing: Because they’re more likely to need hospital treatment for COVID from Canada’s universal health care system, they sure be obliged to help defray the extra cost. Hiking health insurance premiums on the unvaxxed in the U.S. would make sense for the same reason.

But wanting to take away the children of the unvaccinated, knowing that kids are at nearly zero risk of severe illness if mom or dad is infected, isn’t “internalizing an externality.” It’s cruelty for its own sake. And it mirrors the progressive illogic of insisting on closing schools when it’s been clear for more than a year that COVID is barely a threat in classrooms. Here again, some on the left are willing to inflict terrible trauma on children in pursuit of an irrational “maximum safety” COVID policy.

We reached the “cruelty for its own sake” stage of this national trauma some time ago, actually:

Now the majority of COVID deaths are occurring among the unvaccinated, and many deaths are likely preventable. The compassion extended to the virus’s victims is no longer universal. Sometimes, in place of condolences, loved ones receive scorn.

Vitriol doesn’t come just from familiar names, but also from strangers. Websites, message boards, and social-media accounts have cropped up as forums to insult the unvaccinated dead. They scour social-media pages for “covidiots” and screenshot their photos and posts, turning them into memes. One Reddit page even gives out “awards” to those who refused the vaccine and then died.

“A few months after the vaccine became available, that was really the turning point for when we began to see an acceleration in the lack of empathy for those who passed away due to COVID,” says Kristin Urquiza, who co-founded Marked by COVID, a grassroots group that advocates for those affected by the pandemic, after her dad died of COVID in June 2020. She told me that even in forums dedicated specifically to grief, when someone posts about a COVID death, often the first thing people ask is whether the person was vaccinated.

American media has begun paying attention to the stratification happening in European countries that are using vaccine passports to a much greater extent than the U.S. is, leading to the isolation of the unvaxxed from all manner of social life. The unvaccinated deserve the criticism they get for creating an unnecessary burden on hospitals, and as I say, demanding that they bear some of the costs they’ve imposed on others is a matter of simple fairness and personal responsibility. But the impulse to punish is turning ugly as pandemic fatigue drives the world to complete exasperation. Someone must be blamed for our collective misery and we know who it is.