Although the number of unvaccinated children is growing in Texas, nearly four out of five Texans — 78 percent — believe healthy children should be vaccinated against diseases like measles, mumps, and rubella to attend public school, a recent poll shows.
The Texas Lyceum poll also found that 76 percent of Texans said the benefits of vaccines outweigh the risks.
The poll comes on the heels of a Texas Public Health Coalition poll that shows 86 percent of Republican primary voters support requiring school-age children to be immunized to attend public school. Seventy-one percent said they "strongly support" such requirements.
The Lyceum poll asked Texans about a variety of other health care issues, including opinions about trust in Medicare and Medicaid, access to care, and the overall health of the state's residents.
“We Texans want to be healthy, not just for personal reasons, but our health impacts our state’s economic development, global competitiveness and security,” Texas Lyceum President Brad Morrison said. “Therefore, we directed our pollsters to take a deep dive centering on the issue of health care and health care reform in Texas."
Texas is one of 18 states that allows people to obtain philosophical exemptions to immunizations because of "personal, moral or other beliefs," according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Texas' "conscientious exemptions" began in 2003. The state went from 2,314 exemptions in the 2003-2004 school year to 56,738 in the 2017-2018 school year, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
The Lyceum poll shows a small but significant partisan difference on vaccinations. It found that 20 percent of Republicans think parents should be able to opt out of them, compared with 12 percent of Democrats.
There were also partisan differences on Medicare and Medicaid. Overall, 64 percent of Texans have a favorable view of Medicare, with 70 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of Republicans approving. Opinions on Medicaid were more sharply divided. Fifty-seven percent of all Texans expressed a favorable opinion about the program, with 68 percent of Democrats and 51 percent of Republicans approving.
Texas ranks highest of all states in the number of residents without health care insurance. The state's 16.6-percent rate of uninsured for 2016 — almost double the national rate of 8.8 percent — means 4.5 million Texans have no health coverage, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report. The Lyceum poll found that 64 percent of Texas adults believe reducing the uninsured rate is very important, and 26 percent said it is somewhat important.
The Lyceum poll also found that a plurality — 48 percent — say American adults are less healthy today than they were 20 years ago, while 25 percent said they are healthier, and 22 percent said overall health is about the same. However, 61 percent said U.S. children today are less healthy compared with 20 years ago, with only 17 percent saying they are healthier and 18 percent saying their health is about the same.
The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 2.86 percentage points. The Texas Lyceum is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group designed to identify up-and-coming Texas leaders.