Relationship of political ideology of US federal and state elected officials and key COVID pandemic outcomes following vaccine rollout to adults: April 2021-March 2022

Lancet Reg Health Am. 2022 Dec;16:100384. doi: 10.1016/j.lana.2022.100384. Epub 2022 Oct 31.

Abstract

Background: Scant research, including in the United States, has quantified relationships between the political ideologies of elected representatives and COVID-19 outcomes among their constituents.

Methods: We analyzed observational cross-sectional data on COVID-19 mortality rates (age-standardized) and stress on hospital intensive care unit (ICU) capacity for all 435 US Congressional Districts (CDs) in a period of adult vaccine availability (April 2021-March 2022). Political metrics comprised: (1) ideological scores based on each US Representative's and Senator's concurrent overall voting record and their specific COVID-19 votes, and (2) state trifectas (Governor, State House, and State Senate under the same political party control). Analyses controlled for CD social metrics, population density, vaccination rates, the prevalence of diabetes and obesity, and voter political lean.

Findings: During the study period, the higher the exposure to conservatism across several political metrics, the higher the COVID-19 age-standardized mortality rates, even after taking into account the CD's social characteristics; similar patterns occurred for stress on hospital ICU capacity for Republican trifectas and US Senator political ideology scores. For example, in models mutually adjusting for CD political and social metrics and vaccination rates, Republican trifecta and conservative voter political lean independently remained significantly associated with an 11%-26% higher COVID-19 mortality rate.

Interpretation: Associations between the political ideologies of US federal elected officials and state concentrations of political party power with population health warrant greater consideration in public health analyses and monitoring dashboards.

Funding: This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

Keywords: ACS, American Community Survey; CD, Congressional District; CI, Confidence interval; COVID-19; COVID-19 mortality rates; Congressional district; ICE, Index for Concentration at the Extremes; ICU, Intensive care unit; Intensive care unit occupancy; Political ideology; US Congressional House Representatives; US Senators; Voter political lean.