Covid, Demographics and Democracy
As Covid changes the electorate, could it change who’s elected?
In the US, 240k people officially died from Covid and 79% of them were 65 or older (97% were 45 or older). In 2016, 53% of voters older than 65 voted for Trump, compared to only 46% of the general population. So because Covid disproportionately kills more among a group who tends to vote differently from the rest of the population, can it change the political dynamics? It’s a horrid reasoning, but I wanted to know the answer…
Let’s consider the US election. In Georgia for instance, as of today—the final count may differ—14k votes, out of 4.9 million, separate Biden from Trump. Based on excess deaths, about 10k people died from Covid in this state. So less than the vote margin, but let’s continue the analysis… In this state in 2016, 57% of people from 45 to 64 and 67% of those 65 or over voted for Trump:
So without Covid, if these people had voted, and if they had voted as in 2016, then:
6,500 would have voted for Trump [10k x (44% x 3% + 57% x 18% + 67% x 79%)]
3,300 for Biden [10k x (51% x 3% + 41% x 18% + 31% x 79%)]
200 for third-party candidates
Biden would still have won, but with a vote margin of 11k instead of 14k votes. So even in the case of a really close race, Covid deaths wouldn’t change the outcome—all other things being equal. However, Covid deaths in the US are unfortunately still increasing. Should deaths continue to increase to reach five times the current death toll, then the conclusion would be different. But I hope that we’ll soon find a vaccine and that such a death toll will never be reached!
On the other hand, the governments's policy responses and the effectiveness of their handling of the pandemic do influence voters. This can change the outcome of elections, but it’s harder to measure. For instance, the French government has so far refused to implement a stay-at-home order for older people only because they claimed it would be ineffective and unfair. Or is it because this age group who voted at 27% for Macron in 2017—vs 24% for the general population—would then feel discriminated against and turn to the opposition at the next election? Yes, covid definitely changes our democracies…
What do you think?