Associations Between Governor Political Affiliation and COVID-19 Cases, Deaths, and Testing in the U.S.

Brian Neelon, Fedelis Mutiso, Noel T. Mueller, John L. Pearce, Sara E. Benjamin-Neelon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Introduction: The response to the COVID-19 pandemic became increasingly politicized in the U.S., and the political affiliation of state leaders may contribute to policies affecting the spread of the disease. This study examines the differences in COVID-19 infection, death, and testing by governor party affiliation across the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Methods: A longitudinal analysis was conducted in December 2020 examining COVID-19 incidence, death, testing, and test positivity rates from March 15, 2020 through December 15, 2020. A Bayesian negative binomial model was fit to estimate the daily risk ratios and posterior intervals comparing rates by gubernatorial party affiliation. The analyses adjusted for state population density, rurality, Census region, age, race, ethnicity, poverty, number of physicians, obesity, cardiovascular disease, asthma, smoking, and presidential voting in 2020. Results: From March 2020 to early June 2020, Republican-led states had lower COVID-19 incidence rates than Democratic-led states. On June 3, 2020, the association reversed, and Republican-led states had a higher incidence (risk ratio=1.10, 95% posterior interval=1.01, 1.18). This trend persisted through early December 2020. For death rates, Republican-led states had lower rates early in the pandemic but higher rates from July 4, 2020 (risk ratio=1.18, 95% posterior interval=1.02, 1.31) through mid-December 2020. Republican-led states had higher test positivity rates starting on May 30, 2020 (risk ratio=1.70, 95% posterior interval=1.66, 1.73) and lower testing rates by September 30, 2020 (risk ratio=0.95, 95% posterior interval=0.90, 0.98). Conclusions: Gubernatorial party affiliation may drive policy decisions that impact COVID-19 infections and deaths across the U.S. Future policy decisions should be guided by public health considerations rather than by political ideology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)115-119
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican journal of preventive medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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