Political and News Media Factors Shaping Public Awareness of the HPV Vaccine

Sarah E. Gollust, Laura Attanasio, Amanda Dempsey, Allison M. Benson, Erika Franklin Fowler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Background: In 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration licensed a vaccine for the human papillomavirus (HPV) that prevents the strains of HPV that cause 70% of cervical cancers. Within months, many states introduced legislation requiring the vaccine for girls, prompting controversy and heightened political and media attention to the issue. Previous research has shown differences in HPV vaccine awareness by individual-level characteristics such as race/ethnicity, income, and education levels. We examined how individual political orientation and exposure to media coverage can also shape awareness of the vaccine. Methods: Using data from a 2009 Internet survey of 1,216 nationally representative adult respondents linked to data on state-specific news coverage, we assessed how political orientation, media exposure, and state political context predicted HPV vaccine awareness. Results: Younger people, women, and those with more education were significantly more likely to be aware of the vaccine. Even after controlling for these characteristics, we found that exposure to news media was associated with higher HPV vaccine awareness. Whereas liberals and conservatives were both more aware of the vaccine compared with moderates, the data are suggestive that liberals were more sensitive to news coverage. Conclusion: These findings suggest that individual-level political identities and their interaction with the informational environment may be important factors to consider in evaluating the determinants of individuals' attitudes and behaviors related to politically charged women's health issues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e143-e151
JournalWomen's Health Issues
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2013


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