Matthew McConaughey isn't the only Austinite hesitant about vaccinating his young children from COVID-19. Some Power Poll members, too, are iffy about whether they will go through with vaccinating their young children now the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued emergency use approval of a vaccine for kids 5 to 11 years old.
It's no surprise the vast majority of Power Poll members are vaccinated and that most favor mask mandates in schools and allowing private businesses to require vaccination as a condition of work. In fact, a higher percentage of Austin Power Poll members favor vaccination requirements at businesses than their fellow Texans statewide, according to recent polling from the Texas Tribune and the University of Texas.
What is noteworthy is that a solid one-third of Austin Power Poll are opposed.
What does this say about Austin? Despite strong pro-vaccine practices among Power Poll members, a solid contingent of Austin's most influential people differ on whether COVID-related mandates are going too far.
Here are the exact questions we asked in this month's Power Poll:
This survey was sent via email to 608 Power Poll members in the Austin area, where 125 responded for a response rate of 20.56%. The Power Poll is not a scientific poll and is instead a fascinating glimpse into the minds of those making things happen in our community, including publicly elected officials, CEOs, small businesses owners, community activists, restaurant owners and others who make this city tick.
Power Poll queries people who wield power and influence in approximately 25 cities across the country. Power Poll members share their opinions about pressing issues in their communities, giving the larger public a glimpse of what the people who run our cities are truly thinking. Power Poll aims to take similar surveys in the top 300 cities in the United States. Power Poll is non-partisan.
Alright, alright, alright. McConaughey, who is contemplating a bid for governor, nabbed the nation's attention this month when he said at DealBook Online Summit Nov. 9 that he did not plan to vaccinate his children. He, his wife and his 90-year-old mother, who lives with him, are all vaccinated, he said. However, he said he has no plans to vaccinate his eight and 11 years old, but later clarified that his 13-year old son is vaccinated.
"I want to trust in the science. Do I think that there's any kind of scam or conspiracy theory? Hell no, I don't," he said when asked about vaccinations for children. "It's scary. Right now, I'm not vaccinating mine, I'll tell you that... We go slow on vaccinations anyway, even before Covid."
He went on. "I couldn't mandate having to vaccinate the younger kids."
Of course, McConaughey is not in a position to mandate vaccines for the children in the state of Texas, but he is mulling whether he wants that responsibility. McConaughey, whose political affiliation is a mystery, polled nine percentage points ahead of Gov. Greg Abbott in a hypothetical match-up in September, according to a poll from the Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler.
This Power Poll isn't about McConaughey; this is about how common is McConaughey's hesitancy among Power Poll members. Narrowing the field to actual parents, Austin's favorite son is not alone. While 92 percent of Power Poll members are vaccinated, 78 percent had their 12 to 17-year-old children follow suit once they became eligible for the vaccine in the spring.
Enthusiasm for vaccines for younger children slides the younger they get. Like McConaughey, 34 percent are leaning against vaccinating their children who are 5 to 11 years old, with 21 percent certain they wouldn't. Almost a quarter of respondents said they were downright hesitant to get their child the vaccine.
However, the majority of Power Poll members do plan to get their young children vaccinated if they haven't already.
Not all Power Poll Members have children in either age group. When we zoom out to the whole group, just more than one in three Power Poll members opposes mask mandates in school, an identical percentage to parents who are leaning against or opposed to vaccinating their young kids.
Vaccine mandates for private businesses is another COVID-19 lightning-rod. After Abbott and other governors issued executive orders to block vaccine mandates, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, under President Joe Biden's administration, required businesses with more than 100 employees have their workers either vaccinated or comply with mask mandates and weekly COVID testing.
In Austin, 64 percent of Power Poll members support a restriction like Biden's, a significantly higher than the 54 percent of Texans who support such vaccine mandates on businesses. That fight will play out in the courts. Meanwhile, the goal, as McConaughey's David Wooderson said in "Dazed and Confused," "You've just gotta keep livin' on, man. L-I-V-I-N." That takes on a new meaning, now.