A majority of scientists hold the opinions that children should be vaccinated and that climate change is caused mostly by human activities such as burning fossil fuels. There are groups opposing both of those viewpoints; I am interested in whether these indicate a general distrust of 'establishment' scientific views or reflect e.g. confirmation bias of more general beliefs.

How correlated are 'anti-vaxxer' and 'climate change denial' views? Specifically, what proportion of anti-vaxxers also deny climate change, and vice versa? If significantly more or less overlap exists than you would expect by chance, is there any evidence to suggest what other factors might affect an individual's positions on each? Bonus if you can also relate either or both of these to beliefs/opinions on GM food.

I am particularly interested in data from the US, but examples from other regions are also very welcome.

This question is somewhat similar to this one (in fact, this similarity is why I assumed this was the correct SE to ask this question on) but not identical - the previous question asks about correlation between anti-vaxxer views and political affiliation, as do other sources I have been able to find online (like this). The figure in the accepted answer to this previous question shows that opposition to vaccination is less common than denial of anthropogenic climate change, but doesn't show how the two correlate.

(Please note I am not asking for evidence for or against either of these scientific issues; I'm aware there are other SEs for that sort of thing.)

  • Politically, I don't think there are strong correlations. Sociologically, there may very well be. But I'm not sure if that's a politics question.
    – user1530
    Jun 16, 2016 at 15:28
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    Anecdotally, they are largely opposed. With some very small exceptions, anti-vax sentiment seems to be largely confined to new-agey people who are largely left wing (and whatever support exists on right wing is usually "I think it shouldn't mandatory on ideological grounds; but would do it myself on medical grounds" vs "shouldn't be done because {insert anti-science BS}" full-on antivaxing. Disclaimer: i know several rabidly anti-vax people personally, and am threfore exposed to that movement far more than I'm happy with.
    – user4012
    Jun 17, 2016 at 16:02
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    A far more correllated dataset would be anti-vax and anti-GMO, more likely (the latter is about as anti-science as they come but the narrative doesn't fit the left-wing talking points so gets suppressed in most published or media discussions of politics vs. science)
    – user4012
    Jun 17, 2016 at 16:05
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    @sabbahillel As I said in my question, I'm not interested in answerers' personal opinions on climate change or vaccination (at least for the purposes of this question), just how views on these two subjects correlate in the population, backed up with actual data. If you want a climate change debate I'd suggest taking it to EarthScience.SE or Skeptics.SE.
    – arboviral
    Jun 20, 2016 at 10:57
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    The Washington Post has a story that specifically looks at the question of whether anti-vaccination people are liberal or conservative in the USA. As I've seen in other sources, anti-vaccination (and pro) cuts across partisan lines. Anthropogenic climate change is quite liberal in contrast while skepticism/denial is conservative. Some localities may have different associations though, which makes anecdotal evidence especially weak here.
    – Brythan
    Jun 20, 2016 at 20:50

2 Answers 2


These views are only weakly correlated.

According to the Pew Foundation, climate change opinions are highly partisan and vary greatly by demographic category. For example, 71% of Republicans and Republican leaners, but just 28% of Democrats and Democratic party leaners doubt human caused climate change. Belief in human caused climate change is more common with more education, more knowledge of science, younger people and ethnic minorities.

In contrast, according to the same source, anti-vaccine sentiment is fairly evenly distributed across political ideological lines and demographic categories. About 35% of Republicans and 25% of Democrats oppose mandatory vaccination. Perceptions that existing childhood vaccines are unsafe are significantly more common among people with less education, ethnic minorities, younger people, and people who are strongly conservative or liberal as opposed to moderate.

Thus, partisan affiliation, political ideology, age, and ethnicity are not strong consistent indicators across both of these issues. Greater education does tend to favor views in accord with the scientific consensus, but the strength of the link between beliefs about scientific topics and education is weaker than one might naively expect.

The linked report from Pew also examines a host of other beliefs about scientific topics relative to demographics and partisan leanings.

Some of the partisan effects are muted, however, by the fact that the Pew study uses only a crude Democrat-Republican/Liberal-Conservative description of the political views of the people surveyed.

A division of the political left and the political right, respectively, into components of those political coalitions would reveal more consensus within each subgroup, and more impact from political views within those subgroups.

For example, surveys of science views within each political party captures to a significant extent distrust of the establishment, something that varies considerably within subgroups of both of the major political parties in the United States.


Dan Kahan is a researcher who has come close to addressing this. The Washington Post article mentioned by @Brythan in the comments describes the results from one of Kahan's studies:

while there may be some broadly leftwing motivations behind vaccine resistance — distrust of corporations that make vaccines, for instance, and fear that their products aren’t safe and that they can’t be trusted — there are also rightwing ones (e.g., distrust of the CDC and government that claims vaccines are safe). And on the national level, these influences may basically be a wash.

While this doesn't address the question so directly, it does imply that there must be many people in the US who hold counter-scientific views on both climate change and vaccines.

Other work by Kahan doesn't deals directly with the vaccine issues, but provides some relevant insights. In a short summary of this research, he explains that when we look only at people with a very low level of knowledge about science, skepticism of climate change was actually higher among conservatives than liberals. But at the same time, greater curiosity about science, regardless of political orientation or even knowledge about science, correlates clearly with trust in the findings of climate science. We can speculate that the same applies to vaccines, but I'm not finding direct data on this.

  • This answer doesn't show any data on the correlation requested.
    – Sjoerd
    May 17, 2017 at 3:26

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