February 2, 2017

Vast Majority of Americans Say Benefits of Childhood Vaccines Outweigh Risks

5. Public views of media coverage on childhood vaccines

Most Americans say the media are doing a good job reporting issues related to childhood vaccines. People who care deeply about childhood vaccine issues and those who follow such news reports more closely are especially positive in their views of news coverage on this topic. Young adults, ages 18 to 29, are more negative in their overall views of media coverage.

Half of Americans say they follow news about childhood vaccines at least somewhat closely, with 13% saying they follow very closely and 37% somewhat closely.

Those who care a great deal about childhood vaccine issues and parents of young children are much more likely to follow such news closely. Fully 76% of Americans who say that they care “a great deal” about issues related to childhood vaccines say they follow news regarding the topic very or somewhat closely, compared with 38% of those who care some and 17% of those who do not care at all or not too much about these issues.

Parents of children through age 4 are especially likely to follow news about childhood vaccines closely; 26% of this group say they follow news reports on the topic very closely. This compares with 9% of parents with school-age children only (ages 5-17).

Blacks, women and adults ages 65 and older adults are especially likely to follow news about childhood vaccines somewhat or very closely.

Overall, a 61% majority of Americans say the media are doing a good job reporting on issues related to childhood vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella; 37% say they are doing a bad job.

People who follow vaccine news reports more closely are particularly positive about media coverage on the MMR vaccine; 73% of this group say the media do a good job, compared with 50% of those who do not follow such news reports at all or not too closely.

People who care a great deal about childhood vaccine issues are also more positive in their views of media coverage. About seven-in-ten (69%) of those who care a great deal about vaccine issues say the media do a good job covering the MMR vaccine. This compares with 46% of those who do not care too much or at all about childhood vaccine issues.

Parents with young children (ages 0 to 4) hold roughly similar views as other Americans on media performance in covering MMR vaccine issues.

Blacks, adults age 65 and older, and Democrats have more favorable views of media coverage on the MMR vaccine.

Fully 83% of blacks say that the news media do a good job covering MMR vaccine issues, compared with 55% of whites and 65% of Hispanics.

Some 75% of adults ages 65 and older say the news media are doing a good job covering MMR vaccine issues compared with 41% of adults ages 18-29.

More Democrats (70%) than Republicans (52%) say the media are doing a good job covering issues about the MMR vaccine.

On balance, more Americans say media coverage on these issues generally exaggerates the health risks of childhood vaccines (39%) than say the media do not take the health risks seriously enough (24%). A third of adults (33%) say the media are about right in their reporting on these issues.

Similarly, four-in-ten adults (40%) say that the media generally give too much attention to skeptics of vaccines, while 24% say the media give too little attention to skeptics of vaccines. About a third (32%) of Americans say media reporting gives about the right amount of attention to skeptics of vaccines.

Men, whites, adults ages 18 to 49 and those with higher levels of science knowledge are slightly more likely to say that the news media exaggerate the health risks of childhood vaccines. These groups are also slightly more likely to see news coverage as giving too much attention to skeptics of vaccines.