Quantifying the role of the COVID-19 pandemic in the 2020 U.S. presidential elections
Department of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology, University of Naples Federico II, 80125, Naples, Italy
2 Department of Quantitative Methods, Law and Modern Languages, Technical University of Cartagena, 30201, Cartagena, Murcia, Spain
3 Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Center for Urban Science and Progress, New York University Tandon School of Engineering, 11201, Brooklyn, NY, USA
Accepted: 4 October 2021
Published online: 28 October 2021
In the media, a prevalent narrative is that the incumbent United States President Donald J. Trump lost the 2020 elections because of the way he handled the COVID-19 pandemic. Quantitative evidence to support this narrative is, however, limited. We put forward a spatial, information-theoretic approach to critically examine the link between voting behavior and COVID-19 incidence in the 2020 presidential elections. The approach overcomes classical limitations of traditional regression analysis, where it does not require an underlying mathematical model and it can capture nonlinear interactions. From the analysis of county-level data, we uncovered a robust association between voting behavior and prevalence of COVID-19 cases. Surprisingly, such an association points in the opposite direction from the accepted narrative: in counties that experienced less COVID-19 cases, the incumbent President lost more ground to his opponent, now President Joseph R. Biden Jr. A tenable explanation of this observation is the different attitude of liberal and conservative voters toward the pandemic, which led to more COVID-19 spreading in counties with a larger share of republican voters.
© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to EDP Sciences, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2021