Did politician Chris Christie unlock the key to vaccine hesitancy?
FACT: 40% of people who voted for Trump said they did not plan to get the vaccine compared with 8% of people who voted for Biden.
Earlier this year the de Beaumont Foundation decided to find out why.
The NPR program “This American Life” reported on the effort and the results of the focus group (see episode link in the comments).
The Foundation recruited Frank Luntz, the pollster and Fox pundit. Luntz has had his finger on the pulse of the Republican electorate for decades. The focus group was recruited (all voted for Trump and expressed vaccine hesitancy) and it took place over Zoom.
Luntz warmed up the panel, “When you hear the word COVID, what word or phrase comes to mind?”
“Controversy, Government manipulation, a hyped-up version of the flu.”
Luntz then brought in a handful of guests intended to persuade: Dr. Tom Frieden, Senator Bill Cassidy (also a doctor), Kevin McCarthy, Congressman Brad Wenstrup (also a doctor).
The panelists were unmoved.
This last guest was former Governor Chris Christie.
Christie didn’t give a speech, he told a story:
“I want to talk about three different experiences that I’ve had with COVID. And the point I want to try to make is how random it is…
I went into what was supposed to be the safest place in America, the White House (for presidential debate prep). And there were 7 people in the Map Room for about 16 hours over four days together. And of those 7 people, 6 of them got COVID. In the place that was the safest, most tested place in America…
And all of us got it at a bit of a different severity. And by randomness, I mean, I was the sickest of everybody, and had the longest hospitalization.
The next sickest person was the president. But the next sickest person after that was Hope Hicks, who was the youngest and most fit person in that room. Someone who, you know, ran four to five miles every day, in her early 30s, and was the most fit. She was out of it for a good 10 days, and never had to be hospitalized. But called me during it, and told me it was the sickest she’d ever been…
Two other people in my family, a 64-year-old cousin, who was a smoker. And so she had some potential problem, got it. Felt OK in the beginning, wound up hospitalized. Her husband, 63, no preexisting conditions, great shape. In fact, was still working every day as an active longshoreman on the docks in New Jersey. He got sick as well. Caught it presumably from his wife. They both wound up being hospitalized. And two weeks ago, they both passed away…
I understand why people are skeptical. But you know what? The scientists and the doctors are saying this is the right thing to do. So since I don’t know anything about medicine, I’m going to follow their advice.”
According to producer David Kestenbaum, “After Chris Christie, it was like they were in a different world.” They had all moved.
Takeaway: Facts tell, stories sell.
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