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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Health Costs of Political Identity: Evidence from the U.S. during the COVID-19 Pandemic

  • Author(s): Chopra, Sahiba
  • Wydick, Bruce
  • et al.

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Recent evidence suggests political polarization in the United States has magnified the role of political identity in shaping behavioral responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. We merge U.S. county-level data on mask-wearing, cell-phone mobility, county characteristics, and variables reflecting conservative political identity with data on COVID-19 cases and deaths from the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. State-level fixed-effect estimations controlling for county characteristics indicate every 10 percentage point increase in the county popular vote for President Trump in the 2020 election to be associated with a 4.3 percentage point decline in public mask-wearing, a 0.19 decline in a COVID-19 safety index, and an increase in 811 COVID-19 cases and 17 COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 county residents. Once we control for the county-level Trump vote, measures of traditional American conservatism, including gun ownership, lower state tax rates, and the availability of abortion, display little systematic explanatory power over COVID-safety behaviors, cases, and deaths.

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