Thursday, July 8, 2021

How Might Politics Impact NC's County COVID Vaccination Percentages?

By Michael Bitzer

As with many things nowadays, partisanship and polarization has infected many aspects of our society; not just our political lives, but things that 'normally' one might consider apolitical. With the intensity of what we see in our polarized environment, pretty much any issue, especially those seen as a public policy, becomes framed in partisan dimensions. 

Recently, political scientist Seth Masket at the University of Denver noted that the relationship between how a state voted in the 2020 presidential election and its percentage of adults who have received at least one COVID vaccine is "remarkably strong," at a level of 0.85 correlation which is something social scientists "almost never see this high a correlation between variables." This relationship was also found by another political scientist, Tom Pepinsky, regarding county-level data.

In fact, Masket found that vaccination rates are a "better predictor" of state voting patterns than what we normally think of as predictive (read, in statistical language, independent) variables such as race, education, or other demographic factors. 

Beyond just analyzing the fifty states, Masket analyzed Colorado's counties to evaluate the role of vaccination and voting patterns in 2020, and found another remarkable correlation/relationship between the two (at 0.835, where a 1.0 would mean the two variables are identical in their relationship and that one variable perfectly explains the other variable).

For those of us who study state politics and are interested in a particular state, this type of analysis is fairly simple: take the 2020 county-level election results (say, the 100 counties of North Carolina and their vote for Trump) and the vaccination rates by counties and see how the two numbers relate to each other.