Do Trump support and COVID go together?
Running the numbers on votes and infections
DOES HOW a city or town votes for president help predict whether that municipality will be at high-risk for COVID-19?
That’s what one of our readers suggested last week after the release of the state’s report breaking communities down into four COVID categories – red for high-risk, yellow for moderate risk, and green and gray for minimal risk. He looked over the list of 97 communities designated red and saw a high proportion that either voted for President Trump on November 3 or turned out in force for him.
“The GOP and Trump supporters apparently are the spreaders,” he said in an email. “This fact of personal politics aligning with COVID infections is not surprising, given POTUS’s active disparagement about wearing face coverings, gathering maskless in large non-family groups outdoors and indoors, having casual physical contact with others, etc.”
It was an intriguing hypothesis, and we had to check it out.
The state’s weekly COVID report identified 97 red communities last week. In those 97 communities, Biden’s margin of victory was only 15 points – 58-43.
Among the 137 yellow and the 117 green and gray communities, Biden’s margin of victory was 38 and 40 points, respectively.
Trump won 20 of the 97 red communities, including Acushnet, Berkley, Blackstone, Charlton, Dighton, Douglas, Dracut, Freetown, Hampden, Leicester, Ludlow, Middleton, Monson, North Brookfield, Palmer, Rehoboth, Southwick, Spencer, Swansea, and West Bridgewater.
He came close in a number of the other red communities. He lost Saugus by 458 votes and Sutton by just 10.
Yet while the numbers show some correlation between high-risk COVID areas and Trump support, the connection seems tenuous. Many of the highest-risk areas in the state for COVID-19 – Lawrence, Chelsea, Brockton, and Lynn – backed Biden overwhelmingly.A significant amount of research indicates the socioeconomic, demographic, and health characteristics of a community’s population have a great deal to do with the prevalence of COVID-19 infections. Adjusting for those factors and then trying to assess the impact of political differences on COVID-19 wouldn’t be easy, in part because there are so many variables. But that would probably be the only way to provide a real test of the vote-preference-COVID hypothesis.
In a recent CommonWealth op-ed, Garrett Dash Nelson, the curator of maps and director of geographic scholarship at the Norman B. Leventhal Map and Education Center at the Boston Public Library, said the whole notion of looking at COVID through a municipal lens is problematic.