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The COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 US presidential election

Authors
  • Baccini, Leonardo1, 2
  • Brodeur, Abel3
  • Weymouth, Stephen4
  • 1 McGill University,
  • 2 CIREQ, Montreal, Canada
  • 3 University of Ottawa,
  • 4 Georgetown University,
Type
Published Article
Journal
Journal of Population Economics
Publisher
Springer Berlin Heidelberg
Publication Date
Jan 15, 2021
Pages
1–29
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1007/s00148-020-00820-3
PMID: 33469244
PMCID: PMC7809554
Source
PubMed Central
Keywords
Disciplines
  • Original Paper
License
Unknown

Abstract

What is the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the 2020 US presidential election? Guided by a pre-analysis plan, we estimate the effect of COVID-19 cases and deaths on the change in county-level voting for Donald Trump between 2016 and 2020. To account for potential confounders, we include a large number of COVID-19-related controls as well as demographic and socioeconomic variables. Moreover, we instrument the numbers of cases and deaths with the share of workers employed in meat-processing factories to sharpen our identification strategy. We find that COVID-19 cases negatively affected Trump’s vote share. The estimated effect appears strongest in urban counties, in states without stay-at-home orders, in swing states, and in states that Trump won in 2016. A simple counterfactual analysis suggests that Trump would likely have won re-election if COVID-19 cases had been 5 percent lower. We also find some evidence that COVID-19 incidence had a positive effect on voters’ mobilization, helping Biden win the presidency.

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