Excess Death Rates for Republicans and Democrats During the Covid-19 Pandemic, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, used death records and voter registration records to determine the political breakdown of those who died during the pandemic.
The initial takeaway is that nearly double the number of Republicans died than Democrats did during the pandemic, and the evidence suggests that vaccine adoption was a key contributing factor to those deaths.
In the early stages of the pandemic, the “excess deaths” between Republicans and Democrats were largely in line. The first major spike appears to have occurred in the winter of 2020, during which time excess deaths between the parties were generally equal.
According to the US Centre for Diesease Control and Prevention, “excess deaths are typically defined as the difference between the observed numbers of deaths in specific time periods and expected numbers of deaths in the same time periods.”
The Covid-19 vaccines became available around the turn of the year, and took several months to widely distribute. By summer 2021, the study finds that Republican excess deaths had nearly doubled those of Democrats. The disparity in deaths became even more stark during the winter of 2021.
“The gap in excess death rates between Republicans and Democrats is concentrated in counties with low vaccination rates and only materializes after vaccines became widely available,” the study says.
Despite the fact that the initial runs of Covid-19 vaccines were developed during Donald Trump’s administration, many Republicans and conservatives refused innoculation. Response to the coronavirus pandemic was politicised, resulting in many Republicans refusing to take the vaccine, either as a result of misinformation spread by conspiracy communities and right-wing media figures and lawmakers, or simply due to a lack of trust in the Biden administration.
Motherboard spoke with one of the authors of the study, Jason Schwartz, and asked if the disparity in deaths could have impacted the outcome of the 2022 midterms.
“If Republicans are dying in increased numbers relative to their Democratic colleagues in a political climate where there are so many close electoral contests, could that have been the decider in a particular particular race?” he said. “Our study can’t answer that. But it certainly seems plausible given just how stark the differences in vaccination rates have been, among Democrats and Republicans.”
While the researchers can’t make any conclusive remarks about the elections, Mr Schwartz said the link between party and vaccine uptake is much more clear.
“So far, it looks like there really is a signal here, particularly linked to the availability of vaccines,” he said.
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