But if the unvaccinated and their motivations are complex and heterogeneous, then these strategies are more fraught. Censoring the internet will have little effect if many of the vaccine-hesitant are disconnected rather than very online or drawing on personal experience rather than anti-vaxxer memes. (As Facebook noted in defending itself against Biden administration attacks, its users are more vaccine-friendly than the national average.)
Heavy-handed vaccine mandates, meanwhile, might alienate not just Fox viewers but also part of the political middle. The Kaiser data shows slight majority support for the general idea of employers requiring vaccination, for instance, but 61 percent oppose their own employer issuing such a requirement, which is probably the more meaningful statistic. Support for vaccine mandates for children is similarly soft: While 52 percent of Americans support vaccine mandates in K-12 education, it falls to 37 percent among parents with children under 18 years, and only 45 percent of Democrats with kids under 12 intend to vaccinate them as soon as a vaccine is available.
In a polarized landscape with widely distrusted institutions, a more patient approach seems much more civically healthy: a mix of local outreach, public health guidance that consistently promises normalcy as a benefit of vaccination (and doesn’t withdraw it arbitrarily), and actually arguing with skeptics.