A new study has found that US states that either favour Donald Trump or have a Republican senator are less likely to follow social distancing rules than those that traditionally vote Democrat.

The study from the University of Washington, shows that politics is having a bigger effect on America's response to Covid-19 than the actual amount of confirmed cases in the US, which has now surpassed the 160,000 mark.

The researchers looked at the five key instructions about social distancing which are listed on the US government website as:

  • Restrictions on public gatherings 
  • Schools are closed
  • Restaurants restrictions
  • Non-essential businesses are closed 
  • Everyone must stay-at-home

These stricter measures were imposed by president Trump on 9 March and have been extended to carry on throughout April. Mandates to stay at home have been introduced in a reported 28 states.

However, Trump's initial dismissal of the virus, even going as far as to call it a hoax, may have delayed some states' response to the virus.

The lead author of the study Christopher Adolph writes:

Surveys now document that Republican voters in March showed less concern on average about the coronavirus, and were less likely to adopt prudent behaviour to reduce their risk of becoming infected. If Republican leaders were also systematically slower to act, their reluctance would end up hurting all Americans, but especially their own constituents.

To paint an overall better picture of the response the team cross-referenced when states enacted the new measures against the number of Covid-19 cases in each state, how neighbouring states were dealing with the pandemic, the political party the state's governor was affiliated to and each state’s turnout for Trump in 2016.

The researchers found that a 'combined partisan effect' towards the president for resulted in a 2.7-day delay in enacting social distancing measures in some states and that partisanship was far more influential than the actual spread of the virus.

However, the study is not trying to pin blame on Republicans as the decision to close down business is an undoubtedly hard one to make, while also trying to follow the party line.

Adolph adds:

Fighting Covid-19 shouldn’t be a partisan issue: The virus doesn’t care what party you belong to, and everyone is at risk. There’s still a chance to change this and save lives. The sooner all governors mandate and enforce strict social distancing, and the more they listen to public health experts instead of partisan cues, the more lives we will save, and the sooner we can all recover from this crisis. Every day matters.

The paper has now been submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

On Tuesday, the White House predicted that if everyone in the United States follows the hygiene and social distancing rules then they could be looking at a death toll of around 100,000 to 240,000.

Please log in or register to upvote this article
The Conversation (0)