The Partisan Politics of COVID-19

This image is from a new working paper (draft to come soon, joint with Shana Gadarian and Sara Goodman) on the partisan politics of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic in the United States.

Many of us have seen the survey “top-lines” comparing Americans’ views of COVID-19 and focusing on partisan differences. What these simple comparisons don’t tell us, though, are whether or not these differences persist when we account for demographic or geographic factors. And we might wonder how representative the surveyed populations are, or whether these differences are the result of data-mining across a wide range of different survey responses.

Our analysis, by contrast, is a pre-registered, IRB-approved analysis of the partisan politics of COVID-19. The figure above adjusts flexibly for a wide range of demographic and geographic differences, and adopts a very conservative Bonferroni correction to adjust for multiple comparisons.

In our other analysis, we adopt a regularized regression approach to sifting through our wide range of predictors of health attitudes and behaviors, and find that respondents’ partisan affiliations are the most commonly selected predictor of health behaviors, attitudes, and policy preferences. Partisanship is more consistently predictive than education, news consumption, income, or anything else.

That the politics of COVID-19 are partisan is perhaps not surprising given the condition of American politics, but that mass public health behavior is more consistently predicted by partisanship than by anything else we measured has profound and distressing implications for public health in the coming months.