Political views can impact COVID-19 cases, deaths, says new Utah State study

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LOGAN, Utah (ABC4) – Counties with a higher percentage of people who voted for Donald Trump had higher per-capita cases of COVID-19, according to a new study out of Utah.

Conducted by the Western Rural Development Center (WRDC), which is based at Utah State University shows a connection between political views and COVID-19 per capita cases and death rates.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had severe negative health and economic impacts throughout the country,” says Don Albrecht, executive director of the WRDC and author of the study. “After 18 months, we are still struggling. This article makes it clear that during a pandemic, political views have consequences. This past summer, failure to follow the advice of medical experts has resulted in a surge of people unnecessarily becoming ill, pushing hospitals and their staffs to their breaking point.  Despite new medications that provide some relief for the severely ill, death still takes a daily toll in the United States.”

The study found while political views were the most important variable explaining per capita COVID-19 cases, measures of disadvantage like lower levels of education and higher levels of poverty were the best predictors of COVID-19 deaths.

“My goal in conducting this research was to better understand factors that explain where COVID-19 pandemic impacts were more and less severe,” Albrecht says. “I hope that recognition of the role of political views as well as the continued need to provide adequate medical care will help elected officials make appropriate policies and individuals make better choices.”

County-level map showing cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 as of March 1, 2021, courtesy of Utah State University.

The WRDC focuses on science-based research and educational outreach capacity with communities, local decision-makers, entrepreneurs, families, farmers and ranchers to help address a wide range of development issues. While located at Utah State University, the WRDC works with partners to address the community and economic development concerns of the residents and communities in 13 western states.

According to the study, published in August in Rural Sociology, an academic journal, early in the pandemic, counties where Trump received a higher proportion of voters, COVID-19 cases and deaths per 100,000 residents tended to be lower. These communities were less likely to implement recommended safety precautions. This lead to COVID-19 cases increasing, according to WRDC.

Additionally, WRDC’s study found death rates from COVID-19 were highest in counties where fewer adults have a college degree, where poverty rates were higher, and where there are fewer non-Hispanic white residents. In nonmetro counties, death rates were also higher in those counties with a higher percentage of Trump voters. In nonmetro counties, the COVID-19 death rate declined as the percentage of individuals identifying as Hispanic increased.

You can view the full study here.

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