October 5, 2015
Madison Grady

Oklahomans support strengthening child vaccination laws

The most recent quarterly poll conducted by SoonerPoll finds that Oklahomans support strengthening child vaccination laws by repealing the personal, philosophical and religious exemptions to the current law.

Current Oklahoma law requires mandatory immunizations for children entering childcare facilities and schools with three exemptions, which are the accommodation of religious beliefs, personal or philosophical reasons, and medical reasons. The law provides for no additional requirements other than a signature from the parent with a declaration of either the religious or personal/philosophical reason. For the medical exemption, parents need a physician's signature.

Fifty-six percent of likely Oklahoma voters support repealing the religious exemption and a near equal number (55.7%) support repealing the personal/philosophical exemption, including 58.6 percent of Republicans, 52 percent of Democrats, and 67.5 percent of Independents.

[box] Current Oklahoma law requires mandatory immunizations for children entering childcare facilities and schools with THREE exemptions, the accommodation of religious beliefs, personal or philosophical reasons, and medical reasons. Next legislative session lawmakers will take up a bill to repeal some of these exemptions. Supporters say it’s a public health issue and that more and more parents are using exemptions, putting their child and others at risk during infectious outbreaks. Opponents say parents should have a right to decide what is best for their children while observing their religious beliefs.

Do you SUPPORT or OPPOSE repealing the religious exemption?

1. Strongly support47.92. Somewhat support8.5COMBINED SUPPORT56.43. Neutral/DK/No opinion [DNR]5.34. Somewhat oppose10.65. Strongly oppose27.8


Supporters of strengthening the law say this is a public health and safety issue, and point to the growth of children not immunized in Oklahoma as the cause of an increase in the number of cases of whopping cough in the state.

Earlier this year Oklahoma also had its first confirmed measles case in 18 years as an outbreak largely linked to Disneyland infected nearly 180 people.

Opponents say it's a personal liberty issue and that parents should be able to choose whether they want their own children vaccinated or not, while observing their own religious beliefs.

A recent Oklahoma television station reported that only 60 percent of Oklahoma's children, aged 19 months to 35 months, are vaccinated, leaving the state with one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country. The Oklahoma State Department of Health reports unvaccinated children are at greater risk of catching communicable diseases and that an outbreak could be fatal to the young, the old, and those with immune deficiencies within the community.

“Oklahomans believe the public's health safety is the priority in this debate,” said Bill Shapard, CEO of SoonerPoll, who went on to note that an overwhelming 94.3 percent of poll respondents believed it was important that parents get their children vaccinated.

Additional insights indicate that women are two points more likely to support strengthening the vaccination laws, while support is strong regardless of those who live in urban or rural communities.

There was also no statistical difference in the results of respondents based on age, income, education, or political ideology.

Evangelical voters were seven points less likely to support the repeal of the religious exemption than non-evangelicals, but 52.1 percent of evangelicals still supported it's repeal, with 54.9 percent of respondents who attend church more than once a week supporting repeal.

Next session, legislators will take up SB 830, a bill introduced by Senator Ervin Yen (R- Oklahoma City) which would limit exemptions to medical reasons only. Senator Yen is a cardiac anesthesiologist and the only doctor in the Oklahoma state senate.


About the Poll, Oklahoma’s public opinion pollster, asked these questions of Oklahoma likely voters as part of the SoonerPoll Quarterly Poll, and commissioned by Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Oklahoma.

The scientific study was conducted from September 1-15, 2015 with 403 likely Oklahoma voters selected at random statewide from a dual frame of both landline telephone and cell phones. The sample was weighted by political party and age in order to reflect the Oklahoma likely voter population for a general election.

The sample reflects the traditional demographical profile of the Oklahoma likely voter with roughly half of respondents identifying as conservative and attending religious services once or more per week. The study has a Margin of Error (MoE) of ± 4.88 percent.

This poll not only conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls but exceeds the standard disclosure with a Call Disposition and Rate Calculation Report. A complete description of the methodology can be found here.

The poll's Call Disposition and Rate Calculation Report can be viewed here. A beta version of the Weighting Table Report can be viewed here.

Madison Grady
About the Author

Madison Grady