In Geographic and demographic correlates of autism-related anti-vaccine beliefs on Twitter, 2009-15 (Sci-Hub mirror), social scientists from U Alabama, U Colorado and the NIH take a data-driven approach to understanding the surge in vaccine denying tweets that blame vaccinations for autism, a totally discredited idea espoused by the President of the USA.
They find an alarming surge, and trace nearly all the activity to affluent people in just five states: California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania. Regrettably, these deluded wealthy people have an influence that extends across state lines.
The flood of tweets came from areas in those states that had several demographic variables in common. The areas tended to have a relatively higher population size and higher numbers of women who had recently given birth. The areas also tended to have higher numbers of households with annual incomes equal to or more than $200,000. Last, the tweets linked to areas with higher numbers of men between 40 and 44, men who didn’t finish college, and a decrease in women aged 15 to 17.
The data largely squares with other demographic data on the anti-vaccine movement that has taken root in recent decades. Those studies consistently found that affluent, married white women with higher education and older birth age are behind the movement.
But, the state data doesn’t necessarily echo state trends. While California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania were main sources of anti-vaccine falsities on Twitter, recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the movement was having sway in many other states. Between 2009 and 2016, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Virginia saw continued rises in non-medical vaccine exemptions. (California saw a decrease in exemptions in 2015 after a state ban.)
Geographic and demographic correlates of autism-related anti-vaccine beliefs on Twitter, 2009-15 (Sci-Hub mirror) [Theodore S. Tomeny, Christopher J. Vargo and Sherine El-Toukhy/Social Science & Medicine]
Dangerous anti-vaccine tweets have spiked—from rich people in just 5 states [Beth Mole/Ars Technica]