Melissa Harris-Perry: Hi, all. I'm Melissa Harris-Perry and this is The Takeaway. Three things to know about older Americans. First, they are the Americans most likely to show up and vote, the senior crowd consistently puts up turnout rates hovering around 65%. Second, older Americans are more likely than younger folk to be reliable Republican voters. Data from the Pew Research Center show that a majority of Republican voters are over 50 and a full quarter are over 65.
Finally, nearly 80% of those Americans over age 65 are fully vaccinated. Nearly 90% have had at least one dose. The takeaway, older Americans are reliable voters, Republican voters, and vaccinated voters. Maybe that's why there seems to be a discernible softening in the anti-vax views in conservative media. With me now to discuss is David Graham staff writer at The Atlantic. David, welcome to The Takeaway.
David Graham: Thanks for having me.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Talk to me about this shift that we're seeing right now in conservative media.
David Graham: There's something very strange going on really just this week. Over the course of a few days, several prominent people came out and gave an endorsement of vaccines or talking about getting their own vaccine. We saw several Fox hosts, Steve Doocy, who's talked about this before, but was reemphasizing it. Sean Hannity seemed to endorse vaccines. We saw Steve Scalise, the House Minority Whip announced after months of holding out that he had gotten his vaccine. There's something going on this week and it's not totally clear why but it's real.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Do you think it's political, it's ideological, or that it's just a public health issue?
David Graham: I think there must be some of this that's connected to Delta. A lot of people are concerned about Delta. We see rising concern across the political spectrum. I think that's driving something that's-- Scalise cited that. Even so the uniformity of the response on Fox, which also released a short PSA endorsing vaccines, almost suggest that there's some worry that they need to be taking this more seriously. Some Republicans have been serious about vaccines for a long time. It's this particular hive that is doing something different and I don't totally know why.
Melissa Harris-Perry: What about the idea that we're seeing it in media, but it's also related-- Obviously, you started naming members of Congress there, for example, with Steve Scalise, I'm wondering about the fact that we're seeing them happen at the same time. They sense that one is causal. In other words, that the conservative media is softening and therefore Republican politicians, or maybe that Republican politicians are softening and therefore conservative media.
David Graham: If I had to guess, I would say probably it involves the media is softening first. A lot of conservative politicians, I think follow where the media goes and it limbs what they feel like they're comfortable doing. This is an ecosystem and there is a little bit of a feedback loop so they tend to be connected.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Does it make a difference when trusted leaders, whether media or Congress get vaccines, say it's okay to get vaccines, do we have data about whether or not those kinds of signals actually make a difference in the willingness of individuals to get those vaccines?
David Graham: We know that these kind of trusted messengers are the best people to do it. Trusted messengers can be your doctor, they can be your pharmacist, they can be a political leader or media personality who you trust. How much this matters, I think is a little bit up for debate and we'll have to wait and see because so many of these personalities and because so much of conservative media and Republican politicians have been spreading a skepticism, not always outright skepticism, but sometimes just asking questions argument. The question is whether at this point it's too late or whether it will have much effect. Also, even if people go out, when they hear this and get their vaccines this week or in the next week or two, it obviously takes a while for them to get vaccinated, which means there's a little bit of delay before we might see that dampening the effects of Delta spread.
Melissa Harris-Perry: David Graham is a staff writer at The Atlantic. David, thanks so much for coming on the show.
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