How America dropped to number 36

Instead, the data point to three key reasons the United States is 36th and falling: It is unusually uninsured, unusually contrarian, and unusually polarized. These are three familiar—even defining—attributes of American life…

The U.S. is distinctly unlucky in having a polarized two-party system, in which one party’s elites take up vaccine resistance as a prominent cause. While GOP governors and even former President Donald Trump have admitted to being vaccinated and occasionally recommended the shots, the party’s most significant media organs, including Fox News, have consistently questioned the benefits of the vaccines, amplified the side effects, celebrated evidence-free skepticism, and blasted attempts to promote vaccinations. Today, Florida Republicans aren’t just claiming that the vaccines are faulty. They’re reportedly looking to rescind measles- and mumps-vaccine requirements. Negative polarization has fully overtaken the right wing of the Republican Party, whose ethos is now something like “Whatever liberals say, I’m against” and whose members stand ready to embrace the most absurd conclusions of that logic.

I asked Petersen how Democratic leaders such as President Joe Biden or public-health officials such as Anthony Fauci could help solve this problem. His answer was not comforting. “Many conservative Americans have simply lost trust in and tuned out public-health communicators, and that’s very hard to solve, because when a population loses trust in the messengers, the content of the message doesn’t matter,” he said.