Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

The politics of social distancing

Not really a surprise.

People in parts of the country that voted for President Donald Trump have worried less about COVID-19, especially as the new coronavirus was first emerging in the U.S., a new study out of Rice University found.


“Even when — objectively speaking — death is on the line, partisan bias still colors beliefs about facts,” the study said. “Relying solely on compliance with voluntary suggested measures in the presence of different political views on the crisis may have limited effectiveness; instead, enforcement may be required to successfully flatten the curve.”

Counties with the most Trump voters saw far fewer Google searches about the virus, and social distancing was 40 percent less prevalent in those areas than in other counties, according to Rice Business professor Yael Hochberg, who co-authored the study.

The study used internet search data, as well as smartphone data to analyze average daily travel distance and visits to non-essential businesses over the last several weeks. It found that searches were low and travel was common in Trump country, especially in the early weeks of the outbreak.

Even as states began to issue stay-at-home mandates, the study found that counties that went for Trump in 2016 were slow to begin social distancing. Daily travel distance in those counties dropped by less than 7 percent, compared to a more than 9-percent drop in daily travel in counties with fewer Trump voters.

“Only when the federal order to ‘slow the spread’ arrived from the White House do high Trump counties begin to catch up,” the study said.

I’ve searched all around and I can’t find even a news release about this study, so I can’t give any judgment on its merits. I’m sure we’re all inclined to believe it, and there’s plenty of anecdotal data in the news in support of the general concept, but that’s as far as I can go at this time. Make of this what you will.

Related Posts:


  1. Bill Daniels says:

    The article sounds fair in its assessment. One thing to note though, is that, in general, Trump voting areas are more rural, suburban, or exurban, while strong non Trump areas are typically urban and compact. Look at where this thing was the worst….New York City. Compact, heavy reliance on public transport, and in short, crowded.. Look at where this thing is much less of a factor…..Wyoming, where there is lots of space and people are spread out much more. So it only makes sense that folks who are already spread out would feel less anxiety and not be as concerned about sheltering in place.

    The other thing to note, and this is anecdotal, is that several prominent liberal voices have expressed that anything that can be done to crash the economy and the stock market is worth it, if it can just ensure a Trump defeat. In other words, they are willing to accept pain by the citizenry as long as it leads to the goal of getting rid of Trump. So going full tilt shutting down the economy would fit that narrative, and I think we’ve seen that play out, too, as liberal government administrators have typically been more enthusiastic about shutting things down and inflicting pain. That’s not to say that Republican leaders haven’t done the same, but I think the R’s, in general, were slower to kill off their economies.

    The basic premise of the article is true, and we’ve seen it play out here…..the virus is absolutely political, and that’s something we can all actually agree on.

  2. brad says:

    “slower to kill off their economies”….”the virus is absolutely political”

    Thankfully no one around here has an agenda and instead is laser focused on public health concerns for a country that is literally in middle of an ongoing storm.

  3. Jason Hochman says:

    Can also get a little carried away with social distancing. Like in Brooklyn, where a woman killed an 86 year old women with dementia, who lost her balance, and reached for an IV pole of another patient, which patient then beat the older onto the ground and broke her head, causing her death after three hours.

  4. Manny says:

    Waiting for Bill and all the other crack pots to start blaming the Democrats and accusing them of creating the virus to tank the economy.

    Bill death is not pain, it is death. The economic downturn can be painful, but they are not “Killed” about 80% of the people are still working.

    People that voted for Trump get their misinformation from the Trump state channel, Fox. They are for the most part brain dead.