Excess Deaths: Republicans vs Democrats?

With the anti-vaccine stance being politicised and turned into a mostly Republican stance, especially amongst white Evangelicals, we can embrace the thought that this has had consequences.

First, let’s clarify something. It is of course obvious, but let’s be clear.

Not all Republicans are anti-vaccine, many are rather sensible. Not all white evangelical Republicans are anti-vaccine, but sadly they are indeed the most vaccine hesitant demographic.

There are also of course Democrats who are also anti-vaccine.

Now that time has passed, what has been the outcome?

We can all guess, and yes your guess would indeed be most probably correct – Being Republican is a risk factor for dying of COVID.

We have a deeper insight into this now. A group of Yale researchers have done a statistical analysis.

The Paper

You can find an ungated version on arxiv here: https://arxiv.org/abs/2209.10751

Let’s set the stage scenery …

  • Far more Republicans than Democrats have died.
  • This leads to the conclusion that your political affiliation, “Republican” v “Democrat” is apparently a risk factor for COVID.
  • We know that Republican-leaning counties have had higher COVID-19 death rates. This is not something this paper reveals, there has been political commentary on that for some time now. (See this NYT article from Nov last year).

But wait, we do also need to ask if an embrace of a Republican allegiance really the risk factor for COVID?

We all carry within us biases. The narrative leans heavily into that.

The existence of a politicised anti-vaccine stance also, we feel, will have dire consequences. That does indeed appear to be the case.

The problem is this. Feeling that something is true is a path to being fooled. If this is a fact, and yes, I believe it is, then I should lean upon data and not simply a feeling that does have a degree of logic behind it, but is still just a feeling and not a fact.

The problem is is excess deaths being reported at a county level might in fact be an ecological fallacy and we are fooling ourselves by thinking that political allegiance of really a risk factor for COVID.

Pause For a moment

We might indeed laugh at and mock “election was stolen” claims. Rightly so, because it is a claim that has no credible evidence, but instead is a lie that panders to a political bias.

These days GOP policy from many quarters is clearly devoid of any actual substance. It mostly consists of hot emotional buttons being pressed to rile up the cult and inflame them.

When it comes to the topic of excess COVID deaths amongst Republicans you should still ask yourself if it is “true” because we believe it to be true, or if the data reveals that it really is true.

Let’s see.

(Spoiler alert, it really is true).

What did this study do?

Over one million people have died in the US from COVID. This is a huge number that we perhaps don’t fully grasp.

Understanding what the risk factors are is a topic of hot interest.

Republican counties report higher COVID death rates than Democrat leaning counties. That leads to this question “Is political affiliation a risk factor or is that simply an ecological fallacy?“.

To answer this question they used voter registration data in both Ohio and also Florida and linked that to mortality data. The advantage of doing this is that it overcomes the ecological fallacy challenge.

What this clearly revealed was a higher excess date rate for registered Republicans when compared to Registered Democrats after vaccines were widely available. — not before —.

Insane Actions really has had a Consequence

The embrace of an anti-vaccine stance has had a dire consequence.

Tied in with this is an insight from last May. There researchers at the Brown University School of Public Health estimated that 318,000 of the COVID deaths in the United States were preventable.

What we now see, and this latest paper confirms, is that the Right’s embrace of an anti-vaccine stance, along with considerable assistance from Fox News and other similar right-wing media outlets, has literally slaughtered vast numbers of Republicans.

The 318,000 might now perhaps consider rethinking their allegiance to this “Pro-Life” death cult, but they can’t because they are dead.

A Few further thoughts

Questioning and challenging our existing assumptions and beliefs can be hard, very hard. Often we can be invested in something and so letting go of something that is not actually true means discarding that emotional investment.

Do we retain an allegiance to a party or a church that deceives, or do we instead strive to embrace the things that are really true and discard what is not.

“Statistical analysis” might indeed be yawn inducing, but it matters.

I’ll leave you with a few observations …

  1. Doubt is not your enemy, but is instead a friend to embrace and cherish.
  2. You can be fooled, I can be fooled, we can all be fooled and conned. The 318,000 are victims, they feel prey to a lie. If you think to yourself, “I’m too smart to be fooled”, then I can guarantee you that you really can be fooled. Magicians and Illusionists make a living by fooling us all very successfully.

Further Insights

The lead author discusses his paper in detail within a twitter thread …

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