Red states vs. blue: US political allegiance and excess mortality in the pandemic

In the febrile political atmosphere of 2020, whether higher excess death rates pertain for states with Democratic state governors (e.g. New York), or with high Democratic party vote-shares, has attracted political, media and social media comment. Past research on COVID-19-attributed death rates county level finds a negative correlation of COVID-19 death rates with the Democratic vote-share, with controls for race, population density, inter alia. We analyse variation across US states in rates of excess mortality, a more robust measure than COVID-19 attributed deaths. We find that a simple bi-variate positive correlation with the Democratic vote-share is dramatically reversed when controls are introduced for race, timing of the virus’ spread, Spring temperatures, population density and age, inter alia – and the result is highly robust. The Democratic vote-share dominates having a Democratic governor; thus, personal behavioural differences between Trump voters in 2016 versus those voting for Clinton (e.g. social distancing and mask-wearing) may be more important than variations in State policies by Governors.