A new study from the Pew Research Center shows that fear and anger stoked by right-wing media outlets against Covid-19 vaccinations seems to have also increased Republicans’ distrust of childhood vaccinations against other diseases, such as measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR).

Overall public confidence that the benefits of the MMR vaccine outweigh the risks appears to remain high, with 88 percent of respondents saying this, while only 10 percent disagreed. But when it comes to preserving long-standing requirements for school-age children to have routine immunizations, Republican support has declined drastically since before the pandemic.

In the latest survey, conducted March 13-19 among 10,701 adults, 42 percent of Republican or Republican-leaning respondents said they believed that parents should be able to opt out of school vaccine requirements. This was an enormous increase from a 2019 Pew survey which found only 20 percent of Republicans supporting letting parents override public health requirements.

By contrast, 86 percent of Democrats said they supported MMR vaccine requirements for healthy children to attend public school, with only 14 percent saying parents should be able to opt out.

MMR vaccines have been commonplace for many decades and comprehensive medical studies have shown that the vaccines are extremely unlikely to provoke serious side effects, but false beliefs about them have persisted after a discredited scientific study incorrectly claimed they caused autism in children.

Asked about their general attitudes toward vaccines, a slim majority of Republican respondents (55 percent) said that they disagreed with the statement “children are given childhood vaccines for things their immune system should fight off on its own.” By contrast, 13 percent of Republicans said it represented their views “very well,” while 31 percent it represented them “somewhat well.”

Among Democrats, 72 percent disagreed with the statement, while 10 percent said it represented their views very well, and 18 percent said it did somewhat well.

Republicans’ answers on this question were most similar to Americans with the lowest educational attainment. Among respondents with post-graduate education 77 percent disagreed that children were being given unnecessary shots; 72 percent with bachelor’s degrees disagreed, as did 64 percent of those with some college education. By contrast, adults with high school diplomas or less were split 50-50 on whether vaccines were necessary.

When Pew began asking about public immunizations in 2016, Republicans were actually slightly more likely than Democrats to say that the benefits of MMR vaccines outweighed the risks. In 2016, 91 percent of Republican respondents said this compared to 86 percent of Democratic ones.

While far-right media figures like talk show host Alex Jones have railed against vaccines for decades, Republican opposition to vaccinations got a big boost when Donald Trump began emerging as a prominent figure in the party. In a 2012 interview with Fox, Trump told viewers that he had become “pretty familiar with the subject” and that he “strongly believed” that vaccines caused autism.

Trump repeated his false claims about vaccines and autism in a 2015 Republican presidential debate.

“You take this little beautiful baby,” he said, “and you pump — I mean, it looks just like it is meant for a horse, not for a child, and we had so many instances, people that work for me, just the other day, 2 years old, beautiful child went to have the vaccine and came back and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic.”

After he became president, Trump announced that he would appoint anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to head a presidential commission to study vaccine safety, but he later backed off under massive public outcry.

Despite his incorrect views about MMR vaccine safety, Trump has consistently touted the safety of vaccines against Covid which were primarily developed during his administration, much to the anger of many of his more ardent supporters.

There are some other notable demographic differences in attitudes toward MMR vaccines. Ninety percent of adults with no children under the age of 18 said the benefits were greater than the risks, compared to 85 percent of adults who said they had children under the age of 5. Mothers were slightly less likely than fathers to think MMR vaccines more beneficial than risky. Eighty-seven percent of fathers agreed, compared to 84 percent of mothers.

Unsurprisingly, there does seem to be a significant correlation between respondents’ partisan affiliations and their willingness to be vaccinated against Covid-19. In the latest survey, 70 percent of unvaccinated adults identified as Republican or leaning toward the Republican Party.

In contrast, people who are fully vaccinated and recently boosted against Covid exhibit a different demographic profile. A majority (68 percent) of this group align themselves with or lean toward the Democratic Party. Furthermore, 45 percent of fully vaccinated and recently boosted adults have at least a four-year college degree, indicating higher levels of educational attainment.

Among the unvaccinated, women represent the majority, accounting for 57 percent of this group. Additionally, individuals without a Covid vaccine are more likely to have lower levels of education, with only 16 percent holding a four-year college degree.

As might be expected, Americans’ choices around Covid vaccines are closely tied with their behavioral habits around getting an annual flu shot.

Three-quarters of those who are fully vaccinated and have had a Covid booster shot in the past six months report that they typically get a flu shot every year. By contrast, 77 percent of those who have not been vaccinated against Covid say they rarely or never get a flu vaccine. As with attitudes about the Covid vaccine itself, people who are fully vaccinated with no recent Covid booster fall in the middle: 44 percent of this group says they get a flu shot annually, while 18 percent say they do so every few years, and 37 percent say they rarely or never get a flu shot.

The share of U.S adults who say they typically get a flu shot every year (48 percent) is about the same as it was in 2020 (47 percent). However, the gap between the shares of Democrats and Republicans who say they get an annual flu shot is wider today (56 percent to 41 percent, respectively) than it was in 2020 (50 percent to 44 percent).