Antivaccine nonsense Medicine Politics

Rasmussen Reports eagerly plumbs Steve Kirsch-levels of antivax stupid

Rasmussen Reports is, ostensibly, a polling organization. Why does its most recent poll look like something an antivaxxer like Steve Kirsch dreamed up? Because it’s not legit. It’s propaganda.

Regular readers will likely be familiar with the level of contempt that I have for Steve Kirsch, an aging tech bro turned rabid antivaxxer, quack, and COVID-19 conspiracy theorist. You might also remember that one of his signature moves, in terms of stupidity, ignorance, and arrogance, is to post online polls on his Substack and then accept the results as valid, even though the audience is biased and his polls poorly designed and inappropriate for the questions being asked. For example, you might remember when he claimed, based on one of his nonsense polls, that COVID-19 vaccines had killed 3.5X more people than COVID-19 itself or, even more pathetically stupid, when he claimed that COVID-19 vaccines cause The Trans and The Gay. Most recently, he is running an online poll asking his readers to help him find out, “How many kids under age 21 did the COVID vaccines kill?” No doubt the results will be as informative as his poll suggesting that vaccines turn people gay and trans. No wonder Kirsch loves the pollsters at Rasmussen Reports, which recently published a poll indicating that one in five people say that they know someone who died from a COVID-19 vaccine.

In the political world, Rasmussen polls are known for tending to have a bias towards the right in general and Republicans in particular. Seriously, even Nate Silver said over a decade ago, “My advice would be simply to disregard the Rasmussen Reports poll, and to view their work with extreme skepticism going forward.” That being said, I never really thought that Rasmussen would go full antivax misinformation, but it has. But wait, you might say, all that poll says is that one in five people think that COVID vaccines killed someone that they knew, not that COVID vaccines actually did kill those people. While that is true, as far as it goes, that argument doesn’t stand up so well when you look at what Rasmussen’s social media team was doing over the last several days, starting on X, the now hellsite formerly known as Twitter:

“If the numbers implied by our polling are correct”? OK…but they’re not, because polls are not how one assesses the risk and incidence of adverse events due to a vaccine or other pharmaceutical product. Nice comparison to the Holocaust, though! That’s always a favorite of antivaxxers. So are the calls for retribution and “criminal investigations.” Another dead giveaway: Blaming Fauci for deaths due to the vaccine.

On the same day:

Notice the careful weasel-wording: “Pointing out how Fauci was seen as one of the worst mass killers in history…” It would have been plausible deniability, as in “we’re just reporting that a lot of people think that Fauci is one of the worst mass murderers in history,” were it not for Logan’s inability to resist adding, “It was true then—and it is true now.” Then Rasmussen quote Tweets the whole mess, with a comment about how the “government takeover of medicine” was so deadly.


I love the first one. Asking lay people how likely it is that a vaccine caused a “significant number of unexplained deaths” has about as much relation to whether a vaccine did actually cause a “significant number of unexplained deaths” as asking people whether ghosts exist does to whether ghosts do, in fact, exist. (See below.)

Moreover, when Rasmussen was, quite appropriately, called out by physicians and others for misrepresenting a poll as having anything whatsoever to do with the actual incidence of death caused by a COVID-19 vaccine, did its social media team engage in anything resembling self-reflection or self-questioning, or even a bit of humility to point out the limitations of using polling data, even if the poll were well designed (which, not being a pollster, I can’t even really assess that well here)? Of course not. they doubled down:

Of course, the issue here is the word “thinks.” Sure, it’s possible that this many people believe that vaccines killed someone they knew. That doesn’t mean that vaccines actually did kill those people. Again, it’s human nature to confuse correlation with causation, particularly people subjected to a constant barrage of antivax misinformation on social media and even in “old” media.

It is, of course, quite possible that a lot of people believe that vaccines killed a lot of people. That doesn’t mean that the vaccines were actually responsible. Indeed, I rather like this reply to what is either Rasmussen’s utter stupidity or brilliant propaganda aimed at the stupidity of its followers:

Careful, “Bill Nighy.” You might give them ideas. They’re doing kind of the same thing with UFOs.

I can’t help but point out that this particular Tweet was actually quote-Tweeting—you guessed it!—a screenshot of a Tweet by Steve Kirsch himself:

It’s odd that I hadn’t realized that Rasmussen has been doing antivax polling for so long. That first link is from December 2021 and is entitled COVID-19: Voters Worry About Vaccine Side Effects, Oppose Federal Mandates. It’s the least bad of the links, in that, one year after the rollout of the vaccines had begun, it was kind of a no-brainer that people would express concern about side effects from the vaccines and that, given the incessant anti-mandate messaging, would also lean towards opposing federal mandates for the vaccine. The second one is from January 2023 and appears to be the first iteration of the Rasmussen polling suggesting that a lot of people believe that someone they knew died from a COVID-19 vaccine, ‘Died Suddenly’? More Than 1-in-4 Think Someone They Know Died From COVID-19 Vaccines. You can tell where Rasmussen is coming from just by the reporting of its results:

Nearly half of Americans think COVID-19 vaccines may be to blame for many unexplained deaths, and more than a quarter say someone they know could be among the victims.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that (49%) of American Adults believe it is likely that side effects of COVID-19 vaccines have caused a significant number of unexplained deaths, including 28% who think it’s Very Likely. Thirty-seven percent (37%) don’t say a significant number of deaths have been caused by vaccine side effects, including 17% who believe it’s Not At All Likely. Another 14% are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Twenty-eight percent (28%) of adults say they personally know someone whose death they think may have been caused by side effects of COVID-19 vaccines, while 61% don’t and another 10% are not sure.

The documentary Died Suddenly has been criticized as promoting “debunked” anti-vaccine conspiracy theories but has been seen by some 15 million people.

Notice the juxtaposition of the results of a poll suggesting that a lot of Americans think that the vaccines have killed a lot of people, including people they know, with the reference to Died Suddenly (which I’ve written about several times now), a massively stupid antivax propaganda movie that basically claims that the vaccines are causing huge numbers of otherwise healthy people to “die suddenly.” Let’s just put it this way: Died Suddenly is so ridiculous that “reasonable” antivaxxers (antivaxxers who delude themselves into thinking they’re reasonable) quickly distanced themselves from the movie, not because overwhelming evidence shows that the vaccines haven’t caused a wave of death and destruction, but because the movie was just too far out and ridiculous even for them. None of this stops Rasmussen from spinning its poll results indicating that a lot of people think the vaccine killed a lot of people, including people whom they knew, to suggest that there must be something to the claim that the vaccines are deadly.

The third link is even dumber, but that didn’t stop the Rasmussen social media team from Tweeting it out in response to all the criticism:

Hoo-boy. This is almost as stupid as Steve Kirsch’s claim that the vaccine killed 3.5X more Americans than the virus did. That’s only because their estimate is 3.5X lower than Kirsch’s, though. Make no mistake, Rasmussen’s estimate is plenty stupid, for the same reason that Kirsch’s “poll” is so risibly bad.

You might think it’s unfair of me to compare Rasmussen, which purports to use state-of-the-art polling methodology, to someone like Steve Kirsch, who just throws whatever his brain worms tell him into a “survey” and posts it on his Sustack, after which he drops his result into an Excel spreadsheet and proclaims it to be “science”! Actually, Rasmussen is worse. Kirsch really is ignorant and deluded enough to believe that his polls are actually “science” and that their results accurately reflect actual incidence rates for side effects and deaths from COVID-19 vaccines, which is one reason why his defenses of his “polls” are so hilarious. I strongly suspect that Rasmussen, on the other hand, knows that its poll results are bullshit—or at least knows that you can’t infer frequencies of adverse events from a vaccine from polling data, even if the polling methodology is rigorous and the poll well-performed—but nonetheless spins them as indicating that “there must be a problem.” After all, look at how many people say in their polls that they believe that vaccines kill—and even that vaccines have killed people in their family! In that, Rasmussen reminds me of MSU Economics Professor Mark Skidmore and his execrably bad poll that claimed to have found that vaccines killed a lot of people. It was so bad that, after its retraction, the only “journal” that would touch it was antivaxxer James Lyons-Weiler‘s fake journal.

No, Rasmussen is a disinformation operation and is basically trolling on its social media now. For instance, they call their critics “astroturf”—um, no—and, even worse, Democrats:


“Team safe and effective” is “worried”? Not so much. Rasmussen just likes the criticism because it bumps up its social media engagement. I realize that I risk doing the same here, but what else can I do?


Why debate Kirsch (or Rasmussen) when it’s so easy just to refute them, as I did a long time ago, even as Steve Kirsch threatened to release private health information.

Yet, just like Steve Kirsch, Rasmussen calls its polls “scientific”:

Also notice the plausible deniability, with Rasmussen pointing to the fact that the poll never asked whether the vaccines killed people, but its social media strongly suggested that they did based on the results of the poll, as I documented above. Naturally, the criticism continued:

I realize that, among pollsters, Rasmussen never had a particularly good reputation. It’s long been obvious that its polls tended to show significant right wing bias. However, even I hadn’t realized that Rasmussen had gone all in promoting COVID-19 and antivax disinformation. However, I shouldn’t be surprised, having perused its Twitter/X feed and seeing election denial, bullshit reporting on polls as though public opinion has anything to do with the scientific question of whether the vaccines are safe and effective and what the incidence is of specific adverse events, including death. It doesn’t.

If you ever doubted it before, doubt no more! Rasmussen is not a legitimate polling company. It’s a disinformation merchant.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

5 replies on “Rasmussen Reports eagerly plumbs Steve Kirsch-levels of antivax stupid”

re ‘Kirsch-level stupid anti-vax’ and also on Substack..

Naomi Wolf informed Mrs Justice Farbey that her revelations on Mark Steyn’s show in 2022 were wrongly labelled as ‘harmful’ and ‘CTs’ by OfCom, a media watchdog, when they were no such thing. They were the result of much deep investigation by revered experts ( described) who looked at data. Her comparisons to fascists were totally appropriate. Her cited self-description is interesting.
A long read but worthwhile if you enjoy rants and bs artistry.

Didn’t Rasmussen also do the disinformation poll that Scott Adams latched on to?

I ran into an anti-vax nurse in public today. Someone I vaguely know (through mutual interest in ecology). She was on a street corner at a farmers market advocating against 5G and smart meters. Somehow the topic of vaccines came up and she ridiculed the idea that anyone should be vaccinated. I mentioned we’re risking polio returning and she claimed to have already had it twice (that it was supposedly the same thing as Guillain-Barre, which of course is a different disease). She’s a nurse at our local hospital, which has required covid vaccination for the staff, which suggests some sort of exemption or deception. She also touted HIV denialism and the claim that remdesivir supposedly kills millions. Stupidity is epidemic. Covidiocracy. I wouldn’t want a nurse treating me (or anyone) who didn’t believe in medicine.

just wait. they will come out with a new poll with the question:

“have you ever been killed by a covid-19 infection?”

they will then proclaim covid hasn’t killed anyone because they didn’t get any “yes” answers.

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