Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat is a very perceptive observer of politics in this state and, in his Sunday column, he offered up a revealing set of statistics: Washington counties that turned out the highest percentage of voters for President Joe Biden in November now have the highest proportion of citizens who have gotten the COVID-19 vaccination; counties that went big for Donald Trump, on the other hand, are seeing the lowest numbers of people getting vaccinated.
This is not exactly a shocking revelation, since surveys have already shown that Republicans — and Republican men, in particular — are far more wary of the vaccine than Democrats. But I think the correlation goes beyond whether a person is a Trump fan. There is a fox in all those hen houses out in Lincoln, Garfield, Pend Oreille, Asotin, Ferry, Stevens, Columbia and other counties where there is a low acceptance of the vaccine.
Or, more precisely, there is a ubiquitous Fox in the homes and cafes and bars in those parts of the state.
Travel just about anywhere outside an urban area in Eastern Washington, stop for a drink or a bite to eat and, if there is a TV above the counter or the bar, it will almost invariably be tuned in to Fox News. Long before Trump made the shift from “The Apprentice” to the presidency, Fox News was a dominant source of information in rural and exurban communities. The in-your-face, truth-challenged type of conservatism being sold on Fox laid the groundwork that made Trump’s political rise possible.
Now, even though Trump can take a measure of credit for kickstarting the rapid development of the vaccine, and even though he and his family have, themselves, been vaccinated, a large segment of his voters in this state and others are not following his lead; they are following what they hear on Fox. And what they are hearing are commentators telling them fear of the coronavirus is overblown, masks are unnecessary, federal and state governments should get out of the way and let people move on with their lives, and the vaccine is a dangerous experiment that only liberal sheep shoot into their arms.
There are more than grain silos out in the hinterlands; there is a big silo of misinformation that is driving, not just votes, but life and death choices.
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