The partisan divide across the United States found that Republican counties suffer from higher mortality rates from the COVID-19 pandemic
Beyond differences in attitudes about masking, social distancing and vaccines, a study, published in Health Affairs and led by the University of Maryland has found that Republican counties have higher death rates from COVID-19.
Comparing the number of COVID-19 deaths through October 2021 with counties’ voting behaviour in the 2020 presidential election, they found that Republican counties (where 70% or more voted Republican) experienced nearly 73 more COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 people compared to Democratic counties (where less than 30% voted Republican).
According to researchers, the disparity in mortality rates between Democratic and Republican counties was predominantly due to structural, policy and behavioural differences in the more conservative counties.
Pandemic politics influence the rate of death across the USA
Neil Jay Sehgal, assistant professor of health policy and management in UMD’s School of Public Health, said: “People living in states and counties with more conservative voters are dying at higher rates from a largely preventable disease.
Even after they controlled their analysis for other characteristics likely to influence COVID-19 transmission and mortality such as age, race/ethnicity, chronic disease and access to health care, results remained the same for Republican counties.
“COVID-19 vaccine uptake only explained 10% of the difference in mortality between red and blue counties. The vaccine-only approach to public health isn’t doing enough to combat the continued toll we are paying.”
Senior author Dylan Roby, associate professor of health, society and behaviour in the UC Irvine Program in Public Health, added: “Voting behaviours at the county level are likely to represent the compliance or lack of compliance with mask mandates, vaccine uptake and use of other protective policies to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic.”
The United States surpassed 1 million deaths from COVID-19 in 2022
As of 2022, US infection rates continue to rise in many states, to which, these policies could help prevent infections and reduce the chance of serious outcomes among those who do get infected, including death or the lingering symptoms known as long COVID, which may affect as many as 30% of people who have been infected.
Sehgal said: “The impact of partisanship doesn’t only impact people of one political stripe. Not everyone who lives in a Republican county votes Republican. In very few of these counties was there 70% or greater vote share.
“Even in the reddest counties, you have people who aren’t able to vote or aren’t able to leave, and yet are subject to the policies and behaviours that surround them. If they are older, immunocompromised or an essential worker, that puts them at greater risk of death or disability.”
Editor's Recommended Articles
Must Read >> The collapse of populist support during the pandemic
Were population samples controlled for risk factors such as obesity and diabetes? It is common knowledge that red state populations tend to be more obese compared to blue states. Can’t just take voting records and not control for things like obesity and other factors that affect death rates!
“Even after they controlled their analysis for other characteristics likely to influence COVID-19 transmission and mortality such as age, race/ethnicity, CHRONIC DISEASE, and access to health care, results remained the same for Republican counties.”
In the medical community, diabetes and obesity are considered “chronic diseases.”