An increasing number of U.S. employers and businesses are weighing COVID-19 vaccine mandates amid flagging immunization rates and the surging delta variant — and more than half of Americans appear to agree.

Some three in five U.S. adults support vaccination requirements for employees, residents or customers by employers; businesses; schools; and local, state and federal governments, according to new data from a Morning Consult poll conducted July 22 to July 24.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, just one in three unvaccinated respondents agreed that the federal government should institute a vaccine mandate, compared to more than three in four vaccinated respondents. 

A similar divide by vaccination status emerged among adults asked about vaccine mandates by employers, alongside differences by political party: Just 38% of Republicans backed employer vaccine mandates, compared to 76% of Democrats, mirroring a documented and growing partisan divide in COVID-19 immunization rates in the U.S.

Asked about the more-infectious delta variant of COVID-19 that has become the dominant strain in the U.S., 73% of respondents said they were concerned, including about eight in 10 vaccinated individuals and 58% of those who were unvaccinated.

The results from the poll of 2,192 adults were published in the wake of California and New York City announcing they would require government employees to get vaccinated or undergo weekly virus testing.

The Department of Veterans Affairs also announced a vaccine mandate Monday for healthcare personnel, and President Biden said Tuesday that a mandate for all federal employees was “under consideration.”

Some hospitals, law-enforcement agencies and universities have already instituted their own COVID-19 vaccine requirements, and K-12 school districts could be the next frontier for employer vaccine mandates, MarketWatch previously reported.

Related: ‘You’ve got to do the right thing’: 50 healthcare groups ask employers to mandate worker COVID vaccines — but one big obstacle remains

While many employers have so far resisted making the shots mandatory for workers, guidance issued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in December, along with a June court decision upholding a Texas hospital system’s employee vaccine mandate, have laid a foundation for employers that want to pursue sticks over carrots.

Workers do appear more likely to get vaccinated when their employers give them time off to get the shots or recover from side effects, and when employers encourage vaccination, according to polling published in June by the healthcare think tank Kaiser Family Foundation. Six in 10 workers in that survey, however, said they didn’t want their employer to institute a mandate.

Coronavirus vaccinations in the U.S. have stagnated, even with attempts by several companies and states to increase vaccine uptake through incentive programs. About 49% of the total U.S. population was fully vaccinated as of Tuesday, including 60% of U.S. adults.

Meanwhile, case counts across the U.S. have worsened in recent weeks, with unvaccinated pockets of the country driving much of the spread. The vast majority of COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations now are among unvaccinated people, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC issued new masking guidance Tuesday, recommending that even vaccinated Americans in areas with “substantial or high” COVID-19 transmission rates resume masking indoors in public, and that students in K-12 schools wear masks regardless of their vaccination status.

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