clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Fact-check: Downstate Republican misses the mark with shot in the dark about GOP vaccination rate

We contacted polling experts, surveyed news coverage and reviewed state data but found no evidence to back up state Sen. Terri Bryant’s claim that 75% of Illinois Republicans have been vaccinated. We also left multiple messages with the senator’s office seeking comment, which she did not return.

State Sen. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, speaks on the floor of the Illinois Senate earlier this month.
State Sen. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, speaks on the floor of the Illinois Senate earlier this month.
Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP file

Over the past few months, national surveys have found Republicans are one of the demographic groups least likely to report being vaccinated against COVID-19.

A state senator from southern Illinois says Republicans throughout the state are bucking that trend.

In response to a Democratic Governors Association ad calling the current Illinois GOP gubernatorial candidates “anti-science,” state Sen. Terri Bryant, a Republican from Murphysboro, claimed the vast majority of Illinois Republicans are vaccinated.

“I’m still trying to get some of the folks that travel down that line who want to basically say that Republicans are anti-vaccine and anti-science to explain that to me, because I believe right now that 75% of Republicans have been vaccinated in this state,” Bryant said in radio interview with WJPF. She added she and her husband have both received the COVID-19 vaccine.

Bryant contrasted her figure with the fact that fewer than half of Black residents in predominantly Democratic Chicago are vaccinated.

The low vaccination rate among Black Chicagoans has been well-documented in news reports and is a focus of the city’s in-home vaccination program. For this fact-check, we decided to focus on the claim that three-quarters of Illinois Republicans are vaccinated, because we hadn’t heard that before.

We contacted polling experts, surveyed news coverage and reviewed state data but found no evidence to back up Bryant’s claim. We also left multiple messages with the senator’s district office seeking comment, which she did not return.

On the day Bryant made her claim, 62% of Illinois residents age 12 and older had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health data. If Bryant were correct, that would mean Republicans are outperforming the state’s average.

A second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is administered at Norwegian American Hospital on the West Side in January.
A second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is administered at Norwegian American Hospital on the West Side in January.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

National polls, however, show Republicans trailing other demographic groups — including both Democrats and Black Americans — when it comes to getting vaccinated.

An NBC News poll released Aug. 22 found 55% of Republicans nationwide said they’ve already been vaccinated, compared with 88% of Democrats and 76% of Black adults — a higher rate than white respondents overall. Trump voters came in even lower, at 50%.

Similarly, a Pew Research survey conducted in late August found 60% of Republican or Republican-leaning adults reported receiving at least one dose of the vaccine compared with 86% of Democrats. Unlike earlier in the pandemic, Black and white adults were about equally likely to say they’d been vaccinated, according to Pew.

Then state Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, left, talks with state Rep. Mary Flowers, D-Chicago, during a session of the Illinois House of Representatives at the Bank of Springfield Center in 2020.
Then state Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, left, talks with state Rep. Mary Flowers, D-Chicago, during a session of the Illinois House of Representatives at the Bank of Springfield Center in 2020.
Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP, Pool

And most recently, the Kaiser Family Foundation released the September findings of its COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor project.

“The largest remaining gap in vaccination rates is by partisanship, with 90% of Democrats saying they have gotten at least one dose compared to 68% of independents and 58% of Republicans,” that report noted. Republicans were also the demographic group most likely to say they would definitely not get the vaccine, the foundation found.

Another way to approximate vaccine uptake by political party is to compare vaccination rates between counties that voted Democratic in the last election versus those that went Republican. As of Sept. 13, according to KFF, nearly 53% of people in counties that voted for President Joe Biden were fully vaccinated, compared with roughly 40% of those in counties that voted for former President Donald Trump nationwide.

We analyzed Illinois Department of Public Health county-level data for Sept. 24 and Sept. 28 and found a similar gap of around 12 percentage points for Illinois.

Our ruling

Bryant said “75% of Republicans have been vaccinated” against COVID-19 in Illinois.

The state senator did not respond to our inquiries asking for evidence to back up her claim, and we could find no surveys or studies that show she is correct. None of the state polling experts we contacted told us they had seen data showing how many Illinois Republicans have been vaccinated either.

State and national trends suggest the claim is not accurate. The figure Bryant cited is higher than Illinois’ overall vaccination rate and is out of line with multiple national surveys conducted over the past two months that find Republicans are one of the demographic groups least likely to have taken the vaccine. Illinois counties that voted for Trump in 2020 also have a lower average vaccination rate than counties that Biden won, state data show.

We rate Bryant’s claim False.

FALSE — The statement is not accurate.

Click here for more on the six PolitiFact ratings and how we select facts to check.

The Better Government Association runs PolitiFact Illinois, the local arm of the nationally renowned, Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking enterprise that rates the truthfulness of statements made by governmental leaders and politicians. BGA’s fact-checking service has teamed up weekly with the Sun-Times, in print and online. You can find all of the PolitiFact Illinois stories we’ve reported together here.

Our sources

Radio interview with state Sen. Terri Bryant, WJPF, Sept. 21, 2021

Email: John Jackson, visiting professor at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale’s Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, Sept. 24, 2021

Email: Dana Garbarski, associate professor of sociology at Loyola University Chicago, Sept. 26, 2021

Emails: David Doherty, associate professor of American politics at Loyola University Chicago, Sept. 25 & 27, 2021

“NBC News poll shows demographic breakdown of the vaccinated in the U.S.,” NBC, Aug. 24, 2021

“10 facts about Americans and coronavirus vaccines,” Pew Research Center, Sept. 20, 2021

Email: KFF spokesperson Craig Palosky, Sept. 27, 2021

KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor: September 2021, Kaiser Family Foundation, Sept. 28, 2021

“The Red/Blue Divide in COVID-19 Vaccination Rates,” Kaiser Family Foundation, Sept. 14, 2021

COVID-19 vaccine administration data, Illinois Department of Public Health, accessed Sept. 24 & 28, 2021