Quantifying the role of the COVID-19 pandemic in the 2020 U.S. presidential elections

Pietro De Lellis, Manuel Ruiz Marín, Maurizio Porfiri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the media, a prevalent narrative is that the incumbent United States President Donald J. Trump lost the 2020 elections because of the way he handled the COVID-19 pandemic. Quantitative evidence to support this narrative is, however, limited. We put forward a spatial, information-theoretic approach to critically examine the link between voting behavior and COVID-19 incidence in the 2020 presidential elections. The approach overcomes classical limitations of traditional regression analysis, where it does not require an underlying mathematical model and it can capture nonlinear interactions. From the analysis of county-level data, we uncovered a robust association between voting behavior and prevalence of COVID-19 cases. Surprisingly, such an association points in the opposite direction from the accepted narrative: in counties that experienced less COVID-19 cases, the incumbent President lost more ground to his opponent, now President Joseph R. Biden Jr. A tenable explanation of this observation is the different attitude of liberal and conservative voters toward the pandemic, which led to more COVID-19 spreading in counties with a larger share of republican voters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1635-1643
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Physical Journal: Special Topics
Issue number9
StatePublished - Jul 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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