How dumb are South Dakotans? When it comes to preventing a pandemic, pretty dumb.
The South Dakota State University School of American and Global Studies surveyed 573 South Dakotans from July 31 through August 14 about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on their lives. Among other things, researchers asked South Dakotans to rank the importance of certain actions in bringing the pandemic under control. Respondents ranked washing hands above vaccination and ranked vitamins as equally important as avoiding travel:
These rankings are, of course, wrong. Vaccines and masks are the most effective means of crushing this airborne pandemic. The survey gently refers to this wrongness as “a large gap” between public beliefs and science:
These results uncover a large gap between the beliefs of the public and scientists regarding COVID-19 mitigation. The Center for Disease Control advises that the virus spreads primarily through breathing in air that was exhaled by an infected person. For this reason, the CDC emphasizes the importance of vaccination, wearing a mask, and social distancing over the other efforts. Nevertheless, frequent hand washing is considered by the public to be the most important, perhaps due to being the least intrusive of the other measures and requiring the smallest of change to daily routines [David Wiltse, “On Questions of Covid Mitigation Methods, South Dakotans Are Sharply Polarized,” SDSU news release, 2021.09.14].
The pollsters find that gap between science and stupidity exists largely among Republicans, who actually rank vitamins as more important than vaccines:
The Democratic respondents’ rankings closely match the expert guidance from the CDC, which lists vaccination, masks, social distance, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, and washing hands in that order. The CDC offers numerous recommendations about traveling safely, but overall, the less you travel, the fewer opportunities you have to catch or spread coronavirus. Republicans, meanwhile, appear to be following the misinformation promoted by their Dear Leader’s old PSA claiming falsely that hand-washing “is the very best weapon we have” and the Dear Leader’s refusal to speak clearly and factually about the proven effectiveness of masks and vaccines and staying home.
Vitamins don’t appear anywhere in the CDC guidance. The Mayo Clinic says supplements “are unlikely to affect your immune function or prevent you from getting sick.” No research has established a link between loading up on vitamins and fighting coronavirus.
This survey from SDSU reveals the distressing extent to which South Dakotans, or at least the Republicans among us, are willing to ignore science and plain facts. Such willing stupidity means more South Dakotans are getting sick and dying from a pandemic we could prevent with a dose of good sense.