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The Killers

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Here’s a new paper that calculates excess death rates among voters registered in Florida and Ohio based on political affiliation.

The abstract:

Political affiliation has emerged as a potential risk factor for COVID-19, amid evidence that Republican-leaning counties have had higher COVID-19 death rates than Democrat- leaning counties and evidence of a link between political party affiliation and vaccination views. This study constructs an individual-level dataset with political affiliation and excess death rates during the COVID-19 pandemic via a linkage of 2017 voter registration in Ohio and Florida to mortality data from 2018 to 2021. We estimate substantially higher excess death rates for registered Republicans when compared to registered Democrats, with almost all of the difference concentrated in the period after vaccines were widely available in our study states. Overall, the excess death rate for Republicans was 5.4 percentage points (pp), or 76%, higher than the excess death rate for Democrats. Post- vaccines, the excess death rate gap between Republicans and Democrats widened from 1.6 pp (22% of the Democrat excess death rate) to 10.4 pp (153% of the Democrat excess death rate). The gap in excess death rates between Republicans and Democrats is concentrated in counties with low vaccination rates and only materializes after vaccines became widely available.

A few notes:

(1) The authors are calculating excess death rates, which are deaths above what you would expect given the pre-pandemic baseline. This sort of calculation automatically controls for age.

(2) Excess deaths are for all causes, not just COVID, which means that if there was any excess death associated with getting vaccinated for COVID (there isn’t of course, but people will argue anything) it would show up in these statistics.

(3) Practically all of the difference in excess death rates shows up later in the pandemic, after vaccines have become available. I wonder what could explain that? The answer is probably like trying to calculate the square root of a million: there’s just no way to know.

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