Red states have fewer Covid-19 deaths because they are less urban, more religious, and less Black

Covid-19 does not care about politics, but the response to Covid-19 in the United States has divided the country just like many other issues are now perceived differently by liberal and conservative Americans. At least initially, Trump and some other conservatives did not take the Covid-19 pandemic very seriously. It is possible that this response influenced conservatives’ response to the pandemic (Beauchamp, 2020).

However, at the state-level, red states that voted for Trump, have lower fatalities than blue states that voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.

This relationship even holds after taking population size into account.

The negative correlation or r = -.53 is statistically speaking a strong correlation. It is also very unlikely to be a chance finding, p < .001.

A correlation does not mean that the relationship is causal. It is possible that some other variables in the background predict voting for Trump in the 2016 election and Covid-19 deaths. If other variables are causing this relationship they should (a) be stronger predictors of Covid-19 deaths and (b) weaken the relationship between voting for Trump and Covid-19 deaths. They should also have a plausible causal mechanism.

I was able to identify three variables that fulfill these criteria. First, states that voted for Trump are less urban and a virus spreads more easily in urban areas. Second, states that voted for Trump tend to be more religious. While media focus on a few churches that disobeyed stay-at-home orders, Christians in general are more likely to follow orders and probably also find it easier to spend time at home. Race has emerged as another predictor of Covid-19 deaths. There are numerous factors that may contribute to this relationship. As Black voters are less likely to vote for Trump, this is another potential variable that contributes to the negative correlation between Trump support and Covid-19 deaths.

Regression analyses confirm that the three variables predict unique variance in Covid-19 deaths between states and weaken the relationship between Trump support and Covid-19 deaths. The relationship of -.11 in Figure 3 is not statistically significant, although it is still negative.

It is noteworthy that the relationship between Trump support and deaths in Figure 3 could have become positive. This would be expected if Trump supporters would not engage in the same amount of social distancing and other measures that prevent the spreading of the virus. The fact that there is no significant positive path in Figure 3 suggests that I failed to identify additional variables that produce a negative relationship between Trump support and Covid-19 deaths or that support for Trump in 2016 is not a strong predictor of responses to the Covid-19 pandemic.


Covid-19 deaths (April 19)




Black Population

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