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“Vaccine Hesitancy” Probably Cost Republicans the Midterms

Neil deGrasse Tyson is an American astrophysicist cosmologist author and science communicator., Photo Date: 7/20/09
Neil deGrasse Tyson is an American astrophysicist cosmologist author and science communicator., Photo Date: 7/20/09. (MGN)

ENEWSPF COMMENTARY – Add COVID-19 to the long list of reasons there was no “Red Wave” in the midterms, nary a “Red Breeze.” Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist cosmologist, referenced “vaccine hesitancy” in observing that a higher number of COVID-19 deaths among conservatives may have cost Republicans the midterms.

Dr. Tyson made the observation on Twitter, “Vaccine hesitancy, which was much higher among Republican voters than Democrats during COVID, led to disproportionate deaths among conservatives, and may have cost them the mid-term elections in close races.”

In his tweet, Dr. Tyson referenced an article on Covid Deaths Probably Cost Republicans the Midterms. The article says, in part:

Jonathan Last: “So again, lots of factors were at play. Including one that doesn’t get talked about much: excess Covid deaths. There’s been an ongoing study of the Republican resistance to the Covid vaccines and the preliminary findings suggest that post-vaccine, Republicans accounted for about 80 percent more of the excess deaths than Democrats. Part of this is because of vaccine hesitancy; part of it is because of the age profile of voters.”

“I’m not going to burden you with the math here, but if you want to read up on it, the data is quite striking, all the way to the county level.”

“To take just one example: between January 2021 and this month, 9,400 people in Nevada died of Covid. The data suggests that the majority of these people would have been Republican voters. Keep that number in mind.”

The number-crunching was done by the Pew Research Center, which says the following regarding how they arrived at their conclusions:

Pew Research Center conducted this analysis to understand how the geography of the coronavirus outbreak has changed over its course. For this analysis, we relied on official reports of deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus collected and maintained by The New York Times.

The estimates provided in this report are subject to several sources of error. There may be significant differences between the true number of deaths due to COVID-19 and the official reported counts of those deaths. There may also be variation across the states in the quality and types of data reported. For example, most states report deaths based on the residency of the deceased person rather than the location where they died. The New York Times collects data from many different local health agencies, and this likely leads to some additional measurement error.

This analysis relies on county-level data. Counties in the United States vary widely in their population sizes, so in many places in the essay, we divide counties into approximately equal-sized groups (in terms of their population) for comparability or report on population adjusted death rates rather than total counts of deaths.