COVID in Red and Blue

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It is being increasingly remarked that the Coronavirus crisis in the United States is becoming polarised into a Republican versus Democrat issue, not least because the two sides of politics are experiencing the crisis differently. The opinion research certainly seem to suggest differing perspectives, for example this from a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll:

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Or the AP-NORC poll:

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Clearly, different sides of politics have different assessments of priorities and risks, coloured as they are by their ideological beliefs regarding the role of government, public health, individual rights and so on. To put it crudely, those on the right are less inclined to believe the government and do as the authorities tell them. Those on the left value public good more than personal autonomy and are less concerned about economic impacts.

But as the data on the pandemic shows, those living in the Red States are having a different pandemic to those living in the Blue states, however crude (again) that divide is as an instrument of measuring the population. To help the numbers speak for themselves, I have put together this table of stats broken down by state (population numbers as at 2019, COVID stats as at 25 May):

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There are many conclusions that one can draw from the above numbers, but this is one set:

The states with Democrat governors have a total population of 178,785,456, have had 1,158,879 cases so far and 74,788 deaths, for an average of 349.56 deaths per million of population.

By contrast, the states with Republican governors have a somewhat smaller total population of 149,569,065, have had 513,164 cases so far and 23,498 deaths, for an average of 140.65 deaths per million of population (which drops to just 109 if you exclude the massive outlier or Massachusetts).

So perhaps if the Republicans tend to be less worried about the pandemic itself and more about the government response to it, it’s because the Republican states have been far less affected by COVID than the Democrat ones. The disparity is particularly prominent in the case of deaths, where for a slightly larger population, the Democrat states have had three times as many deaths as the Republican ones.

The current global top ten of deaths per million of population has Belgium unenviably at number one with 815.26. The United States is at number 9, with 299.79. But if the Red and the Blue Americas were separate countries, Democrat United States would be at number 7, just after Sweden, while Republican United States would be at number 13, after Canada.

The pandemic has been a tragic real-life, large scale experiment conducted between different counties as well as testing federalism between different states, particularly in the United States (as well as in Switzerland, where infection/death rates are strongly correlated with the language spoken in a particular canton, but less so in Australia, where the response has been largely uniform across all states). There is plenty of data, and more will come, but debates will no doubt continue for years to come. One thing , however, is already evident: men might have been created equal, but governments made them far less so.

Photo by visuals on Unsplash

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