Majority of Detroiters say they’re unlikely to get COVID-19 vaccine, U-M survey says

November 20, 2020

DETROIT—Sixty-one percent of Detroiters say they are unlikely or very unlikely to get a government-approved COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available, according to the latest survey from the University of Michigan’s Detroit Metro Area Communities Study.

The latest wave of the representative survey of Detroit residents was open Oct. 14-28. This is the fifth rapid-response survey DMACS has fielded during the pandemic to document the impact of the health and economic crisis.

Black residents are four times as likely as white residents to say they won’t get the COVID-19 vaccine, and Hispanic residents are twice as likely as white residents to avoid the vaccine. Additionally, women are nearly twice as likely as men to say they won’t get the vaccine, though higher levels of income and education increase the likelihood a resident will seek to get the vaccine when it is available.

Hesitancy about the vaccine may be explained in part by trust around information on the pandemic, said Jeffrey Morenoff, one of the faculty research leads for DMACS, professor of public policy and sociology, and research professor at the Institute for Social Research. Detroiters said the reliability of the vaccine, lack of side effects and the degree of risk of COVID-19 infection might influence their decision to get a vaccine when it’s available, according to the survey.

“Those with greater levels of distrust of government, news and doctors are less likely to say they will be vaccinated,” Morenoff said. “Successful efforts to promote a vaccine when it’s available will need to take into account these attitudes.”

DMACS shows roughly 69% of Detroiters currently view the pandemic as very serious for themselves personally and their community. Since the end of April, 93% to 98% of Detroit residents have said they wear masks some or all of the time while doing activities outside their homes.

Another notable finding from the latest DMACS survey is the drop in Detroit’s unemployment rate to 15%, down from a peak of 48% in June. The unemployment rate includes people who are in the labor force and currently not working. Black residents are five times more likely to be unemployed than white residents, as 23% of Black residents in the labor force are unemployed compared to just 4% of white residents. Those with less than a college education are twice as likely to be unemployed (21%) as those with a bachelor’s degree or higher (11%).

The decrease in unemployment in recent months is likely due to businesses reopening as Michigan relaxed its COVID-19 restrictions, said Lydia Wileden, a doctoral candidate at U-M who analyzed the DMACS COVID-19 survey data. However, the lower unemployment rate has not translated to reduced financial hardship for many Detroit residents, she said.

In July, 44% of Detroiters said they had skipped or only partially paid one or more bills in the previous month, according to DMACS. Three months later, a near-equal proportion of Detroiters (42%) said they were behind on one or more bills. About 25% of Detroiters say they are in financial trouble right now, a slight increase from the proportion who said they were in some or in deep financial trouble in July (21%), according to the survey.

“The economic impact of the pandemic will be far reaching,” Wileden said. “Families who fell behind on rent, mortgage payments and other bills while they were unemployed earlier in the pandemic may not be able to easily make up that deficit, even if they go back to work.”

Other key findings include:

  • Among households with school age children, 67% say their youngest child is attending school entirely online. The majority of parents (55%) say the quality of their child’s education is worse than in previous years, on average giving the quality of the school between a B and a C grade. Eight percent of parents would give their children’s current education quality an F. These negative perspectives on the quality of students’ education are consistent across race, income and education groups.
  • Seventy-nine percent of Detroit residents say they would likely participate in contact tracing if they tested positive for COVID-19, though only 35% say they would be willing to download an app on their cell phone that would provide information to public health officials about close contact they have with other people.
  • Fifty-three percent of Detroit residents say a friend or family member has been ill with COVID-19, and 36% say a friend or family member has died from COVID-19. These are roughly the same proportions reported in the July survey, potentially highlighting the degree to which Detroit has controlled the spread and impact of the virus in the late summer months. While there are not significant racial differences in terms of who is contracting COVID-19, Black residents remain four times as likely as white residents to know someone who died from COVID-19.

Complete survey results
Detroit Metro Area Communities Study

Previous DMACS COVID-19 surveys:
Detroit unemployment rate drops, but 1 in 5 residents in financial trouble (August)
Unemployment remains steadily high in Detroit (June)
43% of Detroiters have lost jobs during pandemic (May)
1 in 5 Detroiters will be out of money in 3 months due to COVID-19 crisis (April)
Detroit survey shows impact of COVID-19 (Video)

Lauren Slagter, 734-929-8027,
Morgan Sherburne, 734-647-1844,