The COVID-19 Pandemic and the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election

A new GLO Discussion Paper suggests that Donald Trump would likely have won re-election if COVID-19 cases in the United States had been 5 percent lower.

While some people may argue that “A German – Turkish vaccine conspiracy has cost the US President the re-election!”, this is probably fake news. However, this GLO Discussion Paper No. 710 is based on fresh serious academic research and contributes to our proper understanding of voting behavior in the US.

The Global Labor Organization (GLO) is an independent, non-partisan and non-governmental organization that functions as an international network and virtual platform to stimulate global research, debate and collaboration.

Abel Brodeur

GLO Discussion Paper No. 710, 2020

The COVID-19 Pandemic and the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election Download PDF
Baccini, Leonardo & Brodeur, Abel & Weymouth, Stephen

GLO Fellow Abel Brodeur

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

Author Abstract: What is the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the 2020 U.S. presidential election? Guided by a pre-analysis plan, we estimate the effect of COVID- 19 cases and deaths on the change in county-level voting for Donald Trump between 2016 and 2020. To account for potential confounders, we include a large number of COVID-19-related controls as well as demographic and socioeconomic variables. Moreover, we instrument the numbers of cases and deaths with the share of workers employed in meat-processing factories to sharpen our identification strategy. We find that COVID-19 cases negatively affected Trump’s vote share. The estimated effect appears strongest in urban counties, in swing states, and in states that Trump won in 2016. A simple counterfactual analysis suggests that Trump would likely have won re-election if COVID-19 cases had been 5 percent lower. Our paper contributes to the literature of retrospective voting and demonstrates that voters hold leaders accountable for their (mis-)handling of negative shocks.

More from the GLO Coronavirus Cluster

GLO Discussion Papers are research and policy papers of the GLO Network which are widely circulated to encourage discussion. Provided in cooperation with EconStor, a service of the ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, GLO Discussion Papers are among others listed in RePEc (see IDEAS,  EconPapers)Complete list of all GLO DPs – downloadable for free.


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