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Did the COVID-19 pandemic doom Donald Trump’s re-election? Our research analyzing the impact of COVID-19 instances on county-level voting in the US exhibits that the pandemic led to Trump’s defeat on Nov. 3.
Our evaluation means that, all issues being equal, Trump would probably have received re-election if COVID-19 instances had been between 5 and 10 per cent decrease. Particularly, Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — which President-elect Joe Biden received by a slim margin — would have remained pink if instances had been 5 per cent decrease.
Trump would have additionally added Michigan to this record if instances had been 10 per cent decrease.
This discovering is at odds with some preliminary information analyses that indicated areas with the worst COVID-19 outbreaks voted for Trump.
In actual fact, nationwide polls and tutorial research counsel that Trump’s voters are considerably much less prone to put on masks and adjust to social distancing, which in flip improve the chance of outbreaks. So Trump voters in Trump-friendly jurisdictions, on account of their aversion to sporting masks, had extra dramatic COVID-19 outbreaks main as much as the election.
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The COVID-19 impact
We estimated the impact of COVID-19 instances and deaths on the change in Trump’s county-level share of votes between 2016 and 2020.
To account for potential various explanations, we included a lot of pandemic-related controls, together with measures of social distancing, that captured variations in virus containment measures that may have affected instances and had an affect on Trump help.
In an try and measure the causal relationship between COVID-19 instances and votes for Trump, we used the share of employees employed in meat-processing factories related to COVID-19 outbreaks as a supply of exterior variations in COVID-19 instances. Doing so mitigated the chance of a spurious correlation between the incidence of the pandemic and Trump help.
We discovered that voters residing in counties with a excessive variety of COVID-19 instances have been much less prone to vote for Trump. This impact seems strongest in city areas and in swing states. The robust leads to cities are probably pushed by suburban areas, the place Trump carried out a lot better in 2016 than he did in 2020.
These outcomes counsel that some Trump voters could have switched to Biden due to the pandemic. As well as, we discovered no proof that counties with a big improve in unemployment in comparison with the pre-pandemic interval have been extra prone to change from Trump to Biden. This final outcome appears to point that well being issues trumped — pardon the pun — financial situations.
Now that we now have a solution to our preliminary query, how can we clarify these outcomes? There are two potential explanations as to why the pandemic determined the 2020 presidential election.
On the one hand, voters could have electorally sanctioned Trump for a way he dealt with the pandemic. Previous to the pandemic, the U.S. economic system was performing effectively, and Trump, whereas extraordinarily polarizing, loved robust help amongst Republican voters.
The virus modified the narrative, and Trump’s response was extensively criticized. He constantly downplayed the dangers of the illness, refused to embrace primary well being precautions comparable to masks and repeatedly criticized epidemiologists and scientists, together with these advising him.
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His response, in distinction to leaders in different developed democracies, was profoundly unsuccessful, because the current dramatic surge of instances has demonstrated as soon as extra.
This clarification is in keeping with a well-established idea in political science: retrospective voting. In a nutshell, that’s when residents consider and vote based mostly on their perceptions of the incumbent’s efficiency. If incumbents are perceived as incompetent, residents vote them out of workplace.
Whereas intuitive, this idea has not been all the time empirically true. Nevertheless, it does appear to have some worth in explaining the end result of the 2020 presidential election.
Financial fears, want of social security internet
Then again, some voters could have switched to Biden from Trump as a result of pandemic-fuelled recession. A extreme public well being menace and main financial losses could have shifted preferences in favour of an enlargement of the social security internet, together with well being care and unemployment insurance coverage packages.
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For the reason that Democratic Occasion and its presidential candidate usually tend to champion these insurance policies, Biden reaped the electoral advantages of this change in voters’ preferences.
This clarification is in keeping with research that counsel political preferences are formed by private expertise. The identical research present this change in political preferences is usually long-lasting.
For example, there may be proof that folks rising up in a recession usually tend to favour state intervention and enormous social welfare packages.
This second clarification can be excellent news for the Democratic Occasion even in subsequent elections, when, hopefully, the pandemic won’t dictate the narrative of the marketing campaign however should still be recent within the reminiscences of voters.
Leonardo Baccini receives funding from SSHRC (Canada).
Abel Brodeur and Stephen Weymouth don’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or group that may profit from this text, and have disclosed no related affiliations past their tutorial appointment.