Monday, September 27, 2021

Are Republicans' Bad Pandemic Responses Killing Enough of their Voters to Make a Difference?

I know it's ghoulish, but I have occasionally wondered whether COVID death rates will actually make a difference in future elections.

The basic truth is that Trump-supporting States have tended to have higher COVID infection rates and deaths per capita than Biden-supporting states, Even within red or blue states, the death and infection rates are higher in Trump-supporting counties than in Biden-supporting counties. (This is probably because of the pronounced gap in vaccination rates in Trump-supporting counties vs. Biden-supporting counties, as well as the rightwing opposition to anti-COVID measures like masks). Add to that the fact that the 2020 election was really close in a lot of states. In some of those places the number of COVID deaths exceeds the margin of victory in recent elections. Plus, those deaths are just the ones that have accumulated in the past 18 months. We still have another 14 months to go before the next election. So if the pandemic continues and existing patterns hold, the gaps in infections and deaths may grow even larger.

And yet: just over half of the total adult population actually votes (and it may be less than half for 2022, a non-presidential election), so for there to be a chance to make a difference the death rate would need to be closer to double the partisan gap in past elections. Plus while there is a fairly strong correlation between COVID deaths and partisanship of an area, that doesn't mean that Democrats are not also dying too. There's also an issue about whether partisan differences in turnout will be made worse by the pandemic (if Democrats are more scared of/taking the more seriously the pandemic maybe they won't come out to vote in as high a proportion, especially with various legislatures repealing alternative methods of voting, like vote by mail or restricting drop boxes). Plus even then Congressional seats are so heavily gerrymandered voter deaths and turnout barely makes a difference anymore. So even if there is an effect it is mostly going to be about Senate races, Governorships, other statewide races, and (in 2024) the Presidency.