Trump Conservatives

Former President Donald Trump

Throughout my life, our family gatherings were basically cops and pastors of all political stripes and religious philosophies sitting together to break bread and explore differences, usually at the top of their lungs. Then everyone hugged, rearmed, and headed back into the world.

The pandemic changed that dynamic somewhat as the vaccinated segregate themselves from the unvaccinated and eat in separate rooms. Conversation isn’t as loud because everyone generally agrees, depending at which table they sit. Evenings end with guns retrieved, but no hugs.

A recent Pew Research Study attempting to define the crucial disconnect between those who fear COVID-19 and those who don’t found that 86% of Democratic voters had received at least one shot, compared to 60% of Republican voters.

President Joe Biden says a 70% vaccination rate would protect the country from the spread of COVID-19. But his efforts to mandate inoculations has run into a buzzsaw of opponents who argue individuals, not the government, should decide personal health issues.

The New York Times took Pew’s findings a step further by comparing the numbers between reliably blue states with those that are reliably red, finding far higher vaccination rates in the states that backed Biden over Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election.

Louisiana, which Trump won with 58% of the vote, continues to have one of the country's lowest vaccination rates. About 45% of the state's 4.6 million people are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

In talking about the Pew report, Baton Rouge political pollster John Couvillon posited on “Talk Louisiana” last week that partisan positions hardened after a couple of months of lockdown when many began chafing at the restrictions. “There is an ideological gulf in terms of getting vaccinated,” he said.

Compare the public data from the Louisiana Department of Health with the election outcome figures compiled by the Secretary of State’s Office. The results show that the 30 parishes where two-thirds or more of the voters backed Trump have the state’s lowest vaccination rates.

The pro-Trump parishes had an average of 39.2% vaccinated — with a low of 25.3% in Allen Parish, which backed the former president with 77% of its vote, to a high of Lafourche, where 41.7% of the population has been vaccinated and 90% backed Trump.

In the 10 parishes that Trump lost, mostly the cities and majority-Black parishes, the average rate of people having received both shots is 49.2%.

Louisiana House Majority Leader Rep. Blake Miguez isn’t buying a political reason. “COVID doesn’t care who you voted for,” the Erath Republican said Thursday.

Miguez says in talking with his Vermilion Parish constituents, 80% of whose voters backed Trump and 35% of whom have been vaccinated, he finds that people are frustrated with the mandates. Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards last week extended the mask mandate another four weeks as 87% of COVID-19 hospital patients are unvaccinated.

“At the end of the day, whether John Bel Edwards admits it or not, it’s the forced vaccinations, it’s the mandates, it’s the governor making decisions that people should be able to make on their own,” Miguez said.

Education Superintendent Cade Brumley, on his own last week, relaxed policies for school children by telling local school districts they have the option of letting students who come into close contact with students or staff who test positive for COVID-19 to remain in the classroom if their parents or guardians opt to do so. Brumley said he opened the door to change current policies, which send students home to quarantine, because of complaints by parents.

Given the choice, some parish school systems, like Livingston, adopted the Brumley protocols. Eighty-four percent of Livingston’s voters backed Trump and only 35.4% have been vaccinated. On the other hand, Orleans Parish schools will keep the quarantine policy. Only 15% of their voters backed Trump and 58.2% of Orleans Parish residents have been vaccinated.

“I do hear the rhetoric, that this is happening way too fast, but I don’t know if it’s the Trump factor as much as the radio and television commentators,” said state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, chairman of the Louisiana Senate Health and Welfare Committee.

While older Whites do tend to get their information from conservative news sources, Mills said he’s also seeing widespread resistance to the vaccinations from younger people.

“There’s so much disinformation from so many sources that it has clouded the process,” Mills said. “All logic is off the table with this.”


Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.