Political and news media factors shaping public awareness of the HPV vaccine

Womens Health Issues. May-Jun 2013;23(3):e143-51. doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2013.02.001. Epub 2013 Apr 2.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Awareness*
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Policy
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Male
  • Mass Media*
  • Middle Aged
  • Papillomavirus Vaccines*
  • Politics*
  • Sex Distribution
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Young Adult


  • Papillomavirus Vaccines