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By the Numbers: Republicans, Democrats and the Vaccination Debate

In the last 24 hours, the public debate over whether vaccinations for children should be mandatory has been overlaid with partisan politics, with both President Barack Obama and possible 2016 GOP candidate Gov. Chris Christie weighing in with different takes on the issue. In a pre-Superbowl interview with NBC News, Obama urged vaccination skeptics to “know the facts,” while Christie had to backpedal after telling reporters he believes parents should have “a measure of choice” in the matter.

While vaccination skeptics don’t fit into a single political categorization, a deeper dive into poll data can show us a little bit more about how Americans from both parties look at this issue.

A survey released last week from the Pew Research Center showed that 68 percent of US adults believe that vaccinations of children should be required, while 30 percent say that parents should be able to decide not to vaccinate their kids.

Education level, gender and income don’t seem to make too much a difference in how Americans view vaccinations. But age does matter: 41 percent of young adults say that parents should have a choice about vaccinating their kids, while just 20 percent of seniors say the same.

Republicans and independents are more likely than Democrats to advocate against required vaccinations.

Thirty-four percent of Republicans and 33 percent of independents told pollsters that parents should be able to decide about vaccinations, versus just 22 percent of Democrats who said the same.

And, within the past five years or so, Republicans have become LESS likely to say vaccinations should be required, while Democrats are now MORE likely to advocate for the mandatory shots.

In 2009, 71 percent of both Democrats and Republicans said vaccinations should be required. By last August, that number decreased to 65 percent for Republicans, but it’s increased to 76 percent for Democrats.

The scientific community falls squarely against the "choice" crowd. Pew's recent survey of scientists connected with the American Association for the Advancement of Science found that 86 percent advocated for required vaccinations.

- Carrie Dann