Many commentators have blamed Republicans for the vaccination slowdown and the delay in hitting herd immunity. We look at the data.
Recently multiple articles have been written to show the disparity between republican voting and democratic voting counties and their vaccination rates. Many come to the stated, or sometimes unstated, conclusion that the Republican counties or Republicans are to blame for America’s vaccine slowdown. Even the President of the United States has alluded to this.
Data & Methodology
We collected the data that the New York Times used in their analysis on presidential voting records, county level vaccination rates from the CDC and also included county population and density data.
First, we recreated what the New York Times created to validate our data is indeed the same. We then weighted the unvaccinated population of each individual county by the percent that each voted for Trump or Biden.
Second, to help identify the underlying structure of the unvaccinated we reviewed each by population and population density. In a scenario such as a spreadable virus the population size and density plays a large role. The smaller each is the less likely interaction will be to take place. This is the premise behind the lockdowns.
First, we validated that we could recreate what the New York Times. Indeed, counties that voted Republican had lower vaccination rates.
Stopping here draws the conclusion that Republicans are responsible for the lack of vaccinations. However, doing so does not speak to the underlying structure or makeup of each population. We dug deeper into each.
First, we looked at the total number of estimated unvaccinated in the US. Each party had roughly the same number of unvaccinated individuals, with the Democrats being responsible for slightly more unvaccinated by a slim margin (1%); 94.6 million unvaccinated Democrats vs 93.5 million unvaccinated Republicans.
We also found that Democrats had, on average, slightly more unvaccinated per county, 30,421 Democrats vs 30,076 Republicans.
We also reviewed the dispersion of the unvaccinated to give us a better sense of how these individuals are spread across the country. We categorized each county into one of four quartiles based on who won the presidential vote. The largest population counties being the 4th quartile and the smallest population counties being the 1st quartile. We found that nearly all Republican counties fell into the 1st quartile. The majority of Democrat counties also fell into this quartile, however the remaining three quartiles were dominated by the Democratic unvaccinated. This demonstrates that the unvaccinated Democratic voters tend to be more concentrated in higher populated counties.
We also executed a more granular plot using percent of the party vote and the total number of Unvaccinated by party. Here we can also see the stark difference in the size of the population between the counties. Unvaccinated Republican counties contained 100,000 unvaccinated at their highest, but Democratic counties contain up to 175,000, nearly a 75% increase.
Finally, we also reviewed the population density of the unvaccinated populations for each party based on data from the U.S. Census. Here we also found that unvaccinated Democrats lived, on average, in counties that were 50% more dense than Republicans.
While it is true that Republican vaccinations rates to tend to be lower, they also are more dispersed and are structured differently than Democrat vaccination rates. Unvaccinated Democrats tend to live in more densely and heavily populated counties which increases the overall risk from the virus, all else being equal. In addition, the country contains more unvaccinated Democrats than Republicans – roughly 1 million more.