Thursday, December 23, 2021

Republican Anti-Vax Position is Literally Killing Off its Voters

Given his role in pushing the development of the Covid vaccine, then President Trump could have rightly claimed it as the major success he had in office.  After severely bungling his handling of Covid for months, missteps that cost thousands of Americans their lives, Trump had finally scored a touchdown.  He could spike the ball, honestly claiming that his efforts at pushing the vaccines saved lives.

Unfortunately for Trump, the touchdown came after time on the clock had run out. The first vaccine was approved on December 11, 2020, more than a month after Trump lost his bid for re-election.  Joe Biden would be the one in office as the vaccine began rolling out to the general population.

During the early days of the vaccine, African-Americans, younger Americans and rural Americans were the major demographic groups to express hesitancy on taking the vaccine.  But as Trump's role in pushing the vaccines across the finish line began to fade from memory, Republicans began seeing the vaccine as a Biden-Democratic development.  To Republicans, particularly Trump Republicans, anything associated with Democrats is inherently evil.  This is even more true when the policy can be (mis)cast as big government intruding on personal freedom. Of course, demonizing vaccines also feeds the Qanon crazy within the Republican Party.  

Over 91% of Democrats have received at least one vaccination shot. That compares to only 60% of Republicans.

In an article earlier this month, NPR reported on the partisan divide:

Since May 2021, people living in counties that voted heavily for Donald Trump during the last presidential election have been nearly three times as likely to die from COVID-19 as those who live in areas that went for now-President Biden. That's according to a new analysis by NPR that examines how political polarization and misinformation are driving a significant share of the deaths in the pandemic.

NPR looked at deaths per 100,000 people in roughly 3,000 counties across the U.S. from May 2021, the point at which vaccinations widely became available. People living in counties that went 60% or higher for Trump in November 2020 had 2.73 times the death rates of those that went for Biden. Counties with an even higher share of the vote for Trump saw higher COVID-19 mortality rates.

In October, the reddest tenth of the country saw death rates that were six times higher than the bluest tenth, according to Charles Gaba, an independent health care analyst who's been tracking partisanship trends during the pandemic and helped to review NPR's methodology. Those numbers have dropped slightly in recent weeks, Gaba says: "It's back down to around 5.5 times higher."

The trend was robust, even when controlling for age, which is the primary demographic risk of COVID-19 mortality. The data also reveal a major contributing factor to the death rate difference: The higher the vote share for Trump, the lower the vaccination rate.

The analysis only looked at the geographic location of COVID-19 deaths. The exact political views of each person taken by the disease remains unknowable. But the strength of the association, combined with polling information about vaccination, strongly suggests that Republicans are being disproportionately affected.

Recent polling shows that partisanship is now this single strongest identifying predictor of whether someone is vaccinated. Polling also shows that mistrust in official sources of information and exposure to misinformation, about both COVID-19 and the vaccines, run high among Republicans.

"An unvaccinated person is three times as likely to lean Republican as they are to lean Democrat," says Liz Hamel, vice president of public opinion and survey research at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health policy think tank that tracks attitudes toward vaccination. Political affiliation is now the strongest indicator of whether someone is vaccinated, she says: "If I wanted to guess if somebody was vaccinated or not and I could only know one thing about them, I would probably ask what their party affiliation is."

While there are plenty of articles out there noting the Republican-Democrat split on vaccinations, there are scant few that discuss the political consequences of so many Republicans dying from Covid-19.  That's what this article attempts to do.

A quick note on my methodology.  Not every person who died of Covid was a voter.  Yet, those who have died tend to be older and older people vote at the highest rate of any age demographic. My analysis assumes 67% were voters.  As far as the partisan divide among those voters who died from Covid, I'm estimating that Rs outnumber Ds 2-1 (67% to 33%) which, I believe, is a fairly conservative estimate.

Arizona: While in 2018, incumbent Republican Governor Doug Ducey was winning re-election by more than 1.3 million votes, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema was upsetting Republican Martha McSally by 55,900 votes.  Ducey, whose performance in a good Democratic year, was quite remarkable, is term limited and won't be running for re-election.  The Trump-endorsed and highly controversial former TV broadcaster Kari Lake is one of the leading Republican candidates.  In a late November poll Lake and another possible Republican nominee, former Congressman Matt Salmon, trailed current Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and likely Democratic Senate nominee by several points.  Hobbs won her statewide office by just over 20,000 votes in 2018.  The 2022 Senate race features newcomer Democrat Senator Mark Kelly seeking his first full-term after winning a special election in 2020.  A late September poll had Kelly several points up in Arizona.  The Republican Party in Arizona has been struggling of late and needs every voter it can get.   

Arizona Covid Deaths: 23,816
Arizona Voters Who Died from Covid:  15,957
Arizona GOP Voters Who Have Died from Covid:   10,691
Arizona Dem Voters Who Have Died from Covid:   5,266
Net Loss of Republican Votes in Arizona:  5,425

Florida:  The Sunshine State tends to have much closer statewide races during non-presidential election years.  In 2018, Republican Ron DeSantis won the governorship by just 32,463 votes.  That same year, former Florida Governor Rick Scott beat incumbent Democratic Senator Bill Nelson by just 10,033 votes.  In 2022, DeSantis will be running for re-election as will Republican Sen. Marco Rubio. The trouble is Florida has been one of the states hit the hardest by Covid.  Florida has seen 62,193 Covid deaths.  

Florida Covid Deaths: 62,264
Florida Voters Who Died from Covid:  41,717
Florida GOP Voters Who Have Died from Covid:   27,950
Florida Dem Voters Who Have Died from Covid:  13,767
Net Loss of Republican Votes in Florida:  14,183

Georgia:  In 2018, Democrat Stacey Abrams lost the governorship to Republican Brian Kemp by 54,723.  The year 2022 will feature not only feature Abrams making another attempt, but also a U.S. Senate race involving incumbent Raphael Warnock taking on quite possibly college football legend and Republican Herschel Walker.  

Georgia Covid Deaths: 31,124
Georgia Voters Who Died from Covid:  20,853
Georgia GOP Voters Who Have Died from Covid:  13,972
Georgia Dem Voters Who Have Died from Covid:  6,881
Net Loss of Republican Votes in Georgia:  7,091

Michigan:  The Wolverine state features only a Governor's race.  But with outspoken Trump foe, Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer on the ballot, it is likely to be a major target for Republicans.  Whitmer won by over 400,000 votes in 2018, but polling suggests it will be closer this time around.  

Michigan Covid Deaths: 28,344
Michigan Voters Who Died from Covid:  18,990
Michigan GOP Voters Who Have Died from Covid:   12,724
Michigan Dem Voters Who Have Died from Covid:   6,266
Net Loss of Republican Votes in Michigan:  6,458

Nevada:  Nevada is one of the few bluish states that has become more Republican in the Trump era.  Democrats won a U.S. Senate race in 2018 by nearly 49,000 votes and the Governor office by 40,000. Republicans look well positioned to pick up the Governor's Office and the Senate seat of Catherine Cortez Masto in what is likely to be a good Republican year.  

Nevada Covid Deaths: 8,354
Nevada Voters Who Died from Covid:  5,597
Nevada GOP Voters Who Have Died from Covid:   3,750
Nevada Dem Voters Who Have Died from Covid:   1,847
Net Loss of Republican Votes in Nevada:  1,903

New Hampshire:  The popular Republican governor of the New Hampshire, Chris Sununu, has declined to run against the incumbent Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan.  Nonetheless, this New England state will be a target for a Republican senate pickup in 2022.  Hassan won her Senate seat in 2016 by just 1,017 votes.

New Hampshire Covid Deaths: 1,875
New Hampshire Voters Who Died from Covid:  1,256
New Hampshire GOP Voters Who Have Died from Covid:   842
New Hampshire Dem Voters Who Have Died from Covid:   414
Net Loss of Republican Votes in New Hampshire:  428

North Carolina:  North Carolina Senator Richard Burr is retiring.  Several Republicans are running to try to hold onto the seat.  The last comparable election year, 2018, did not feature a Governor or U.S. Senate race in North Carolina.  In 2014, Republican Thom Tillis defeated incumbent Democratic Senator Kay Hagan by 45,608.  In 2020, North Carolina split its election results, handing a victory to Donald Trump by 74,481 votes and Republican Senator Thom Tillis by 95,633, yet Democrat Roy Cooper won the Governor's office by nearly 250,000 votes.  

North Carolina Covid Deaths: 19,233
North Carolina Voters Who Died from Covid:  12,886
North Carolina GOP Voters Who Have Died from Covid:   8,634
North Carolina Dem Voters Who Have Died from Covid:   4,252
Net Loss of Republican Votes in North Carolina:  4,382

Ohio:   In the Buckeye state, if Republican Governor Mike DeWine can beat back an attack from Trump inspired candidates, he should win renomination and be a solid favorite to win re-election.  But the 2022 Senate race in Ohio is getting the lion's share of attention.  The two leading GOP candidates seem to be former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mendel and the author of Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance. Mendel and Vance are locked in a battle to be the Trumpiest candidate. The trouble is the ultimate GOP nominee will likely face off against Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan who is very much in the Senator Sherrod Brown, pro-labor wing of the Democratic Party.  Brown won re-election in 2018 by more than 300,000 votes.  

Ohio Covid Deaths: 28,277
Ohio Voters Who Died from Covid:  18,946
Ohio GOP Voters Who Have Died from Covid:   12,694
Ohio Dem Voters Who Have Died from Covid:   6,252
Net Loss of Republican Votes in Ohio:  6,442

Pennsylvania:  The Keystone State will be a hotbed of political activity in 2022.  The key battleground is the Senate race where Democrats are trying to pick up a seat thanks in no small part to the retirement of popular Republican Senator Pat Toomey.   But Pennsylvania's election will also feature a battle for Governor.  As Republicans control the Pennsylvania legislature, Democrats winning the Governor's race is critical. 

Pennsylvania Covid Deaths: 35,783
Pennsylvania Voters Who Died from Covid:  23,975
Pennsylvania GOP Voters Who Have Died from Covid:   16,063
Pennsylvania Dem Voters Who Have Died from Covid:  7,912
Net Loss of Republican Votes in Pennsylvania:  8,151

Wisconsin:  The 2022 midterms will feature a U.S. Senate race.  Incumbent Republican Senator Ron Johnson has not announced if he will be running for re-election.  Johnson has embraced a number of Covid conspiracy theories and is likely to be a major target for Democrats.  Wisconsin Democrats though have a problem of their own in Governor Tony Evers who will be running for re-election as an unpopular incumbent running in what is likely to be a good Republican year.

Wisconsin Covid Deaths: 10,894
Wisconsin Voters Who Died from Covid:  7,299
Wisconsin GOP Voters Who Have Died from Covid:   4,890
Wisconsin Dem Voters Who Have Died from Covid:   2,409
Net Loss of Republican Votes in Wisconsin:  2,481

CONCLUSION:  It does not seem that Covid deaths costing Republicans potential Senate seats and Governor's offices is yet likely.  But the election is still 10 1/2 months away.  If the trends continue, it is highly possible, maybe even likely, that the anti-vaccination position of many Republican voters could cost the Republicans a Senate seat or Governor's office in one of the aforementioned battleground states.  One would think Republican officials would be doing everything they could to ensure that their voters are vaccinated so they are around to vote in the 2022 midterms.

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