Identities as predictors of vaccine hesitancy during the COVID-19 pandemic

Samantha L. Heiman, Edward R. Hirt, Calvin Isch, Jessica F. Brinkworth, Lee Cronk, Joe Alcock, Athena Aktipis, Peter M. Todd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Vaccine hesitancy is variable across individuals and contexts. Theoretical work suggests that group membership should differentially affect attitudes and behavior related to COVID-19 vaccines, as individuals draw on their identities and experiences relevant to their social groups to deal with uncertainty concerning the vaccines. The present work uses longitudinal survey data to explore how identity predicted vaccination attitudes in the U.S. before COVID-19 vaccines were widely available and which role-based or contextual variables influenced early vaccination decisions. We replicate these patterns in hesitancy with a larger and more racially diverse sample and identify whether encouragement from people with shared identities was important when participants made the decision to be vaccinated. Before the vaccines were widely available, higher SES predicted less hesitancy toward the COVID-19 vaccines, while being Black and/or having more conservative political orientation predicted more hesitancy. More conservative political orientation was a predictor of vaccine hesitancy across racial identities. While rationale for mistrust may vary by identity, vaccine trust is a significant predictor of early vaccination, and it is influenced by local norms surrounding the COVID-19 vaccines. Encouragement from shared group members was more important for women, liberal individuals, and younger individuals in making the decision to be vaccinated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)556-577
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Social Issues
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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