Data Wonk

Higher Vaccination Rates Lead To Fewer Deaths

A political divide is evident in COVID-19 data. Republican leaning states tend toward fewer vaccinations, more deaths.

By - Aug 11th, 2021 03:11 pm
COVID-19 Vaccination Hub at the Wisconsin Center. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

COVID-19 Vaccination Hub at the Wisconsin Center. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Increasingly, the response to COVID-19 has followed ideological and partisan lines. Measures to curtail the pandemic, most notably masks, social distancing and vaccination, face considerable opposition from Republican politicians and many rank and file. Thus many conservatives are working against their own interests and supporting leaders who put them at risk of sickness and death.

Why is this?

Partly the explanation to this puzzle is that many Republicans and conservatives have abandoned the mainstream press for alternative media that are careful not to challenge their beliefs. One of the most successful of these is The Daily Wire. An NPR analysis of social media data found that stories published by the Daily Wire received more likes, shares, and Facebook comments than any other news publisher by a wide margin, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, NBC News, CNN and Fox News.

The Daily Wire claims to “provide truthful, accurate and ethical reporting,” thus avoiding the most extravagant claims of the right-wing blogosphere, such as the claim that the vaccine includes a chip to track the recipient. Yet the stories published by The Daily Wire are likely to reinforce the proposition that masks and vaccinations are a threat to freedom. The cumulative effect may be no different than the less plausible claims by other members of the right-wing blogosphere.

Here are COVID-19-related headlines from two days of the Daily Wire in early August: “Rogan Blasts Vaccine Passports” and “People ‘Don’t Understand History,’ ‘One Step Closer To Dictatorship’” in which Joe Rogan claims that vaccine passports would push the U.S. “one step closer” to being a “dictatorship.”

  • “‘Strap In. It’s A Doozy’: Mike Rowe Blasts Critic Who Bashed Him On Vaccines,” in which tv host Rowe responds to an article critiquing him for blaming the scientific establishment for vaccine hesitancy.
  • “Rand Paul Implores Americans To ‘Choose Freedom’ Over Potential Lockdowns: ‘Time For Us To Resist’”
  • “Dan Crenshaw ‘Thanks’ Birthday-Bash Obamas For Lockdown Message: ‘Do Not Comply’”, quoting a sarcastic tweet from the Texas Representative arguing that the original plans for Obama’s 60th birthday (since scaled way back) gave permission for ignoring orders aimed at controlling the pandemic.

Nowhere is there any sense that avoiding the vaccination brings real costs to both the individual and society.

As shown in the graph below, comparing the 2020 presidential vote to the average number of new COVID-19 cases daily for each of the 50 states. The horizontal axis shows Joe Biden’s portion of the two-candidate vote. The vertical axis shows the average daily rate of new cases per 100,000 people in the state.

Although the chart below shows considerable scatter, particularly among the Republican dominated states. The scatter is reflected in the quite small R2, typically interpreted as the percentage of variation explained by the trend line, in this case about 13%.

It is notable that the nine states with the highest per capita number of new cases were all won by Donald Trump. Strikingly, Republican office holders, such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, seem to pay no price for their failure to protect their constituents from the pandemic.

Cases per 100,000 vs. vote

Cases per 100,000 vs. vote

The next graph compares the 2020 vote to the daily number of COVID-19 deaths per million people in each state. As with cases, the states with the highest death rates voted for Trump.

The relationship between the 2020 vote and the pandemic is somewhat stronger when the impact of the pandemic is measured in the number of deaths from COVID-19 than when using cases. The percentage of variability explained by the trend has grown from 13% to 21%. This result is somewhat surprising because the number of deaths introduce two levels of variability: the variability in the number of new cases plus the variability in the number of cases that result in death.

A simple explanation for this is that the higher vaccination rates in the Biden-supporting states gives them two advantages: a lower infection rate and less serious symptoms for those who do get infected but are fully vaccinated, the so-called “breakthrough” cases.

Deaths per 1,000 vs. vote

Deaths per 1,000 vs. vote

The obvious reason for the better performance of Democratic states is the percentage of the population that is vaccinated. The next chart compares the average daily number of cases per 100,000 people to the percentage of people who have received at least one shot.

Note that the percentage of variation explained by the model has risen to almost 35%. There is still considerable scatter, especially among Republican states. But overall, people are less likely to be infected by COVID-19 in states with high vaccination rates.

Cases per 100,000 vs Percent vaccinated

Cases per 100,000 vs Percent vaccinated

The next graph compares deaths to the percentage of the populace who have at least one shot. Around 40% of the variation is explained by the trend.

Deaths per million vs. percent vaccinated

Deaths per million vs. percent vaccinated

Overall, states in the North East and New England performed quite well. In fact, no one died in Vermont in the most recent week.

North Dakota, despite its low vaccination rate and a governor opposed to any measures to control the virus, performs quite well. (Last fall, the Dakotas had the highest per capita daily cases rate, followed for a time by Wisconsin.) In an effort to arrive at an explanation, I postulated that perhaps there was a “Great Plains” phenomenon. Perhaps states with low population densities had an advantage—that it was easier for residents to avoid transmitting the virus.

The next graph tests the hypothesis that there is some low-population advantage. As the chart below shows, the data do not support this theory.

Deaths per million vs. percent density

Deaths per million vs. percent density

The next graph ranks the states in decreasing order of death rates from COVID-19, based on the first week of July. States supporting Trump are shown in red; those voting for Biden are in blue. Although there are exceptions, red states as a group lead the way with the highest death rates. Assuming this pattern continues into the future, residents of red states will pay a high price.

Deaths/million population

Deaths/million population

Clearly, Republican states and their residents pay a price for their prevailing view of vaccinations against COVID-19. But rather than pay a political price, their politicians seem to benefit. For example, Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis is widely viewed as a potential presidential candidate.

Overall, Wisconsin, despite its middling vaccination rate, is doing surprisingly well when it comes to COVID-19 cases and deaths. This is illustrated by its 45th ranking in its number of deaths per million Wisconsinites, as shown in the graph below. But there is a real danger of complacency. Along with most other states, the number of COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin has risen over the past two weeks.

More about the Coronavirus Pandemic

Read more about Coronavirus Pandemic here

6 thoughts on “Data Wonk: Higher Vaccination Rates Lead To Fewer Deaths”

  1. NieWiederKrieg says:

    The writer of this article omitted data charts for the large number of deaths, injuries, and illness caused by COVID vaccines.

    And the majority of people who are killed by COVID vaccinations, like Hank Aaron and Marvelous Marvin Hagler, are not even included in U.S. government COVID data…. “Vaccine Adverse Event Reaction System” – VAERS….

    I refuse to get a COVID shot because the majority of doctors and all Big Pharma companies lie about and deny the adverse reactions and deaths caused by COVID vaccines.

  2. Dave Reid says:


    Hank Aaron did not die from the COVID vaccine.

    Marvellous Marvin Hagler did not die from the COVID vaccine.

    Just because someone ate lunch then died shortly thereafter does not mean eating lunch killed them.

  3. NieWiederKrieg says:

    @Dave Reid

    Marvin Hagler and Hank Aaron were two healthy athletes that were rushed to the hospital and died two weeks after receiving a COVID shot.

    If Hagler and Aaron didn’t die from the COVID shot… then what was their cause of death?

    P.S. I haven’t read Wall Street owned, war mongering, corporate media like the New York Times, Reuters, and the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel since the year 2000. And I gave away all my television sets in the same year. TV sets really are “one eyed corporate monsters”. That’s the reason why I subscribe to Independent Journalism like Urban Milwaukee.

  4. Dave Reid says:


    The Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office said he died of natural causes. He was 86 years old.

    Also, he was not rushed to the hospital. He died at his home in his sleep.

    Marvin Hagler’s wife has said he died at his home of natural causes. He was 66 years old.

    The UM comment section is not a platform to spread conspiracy theories that the families of these men have been trying to dispel.

    Please stop spreading conspiracy theories and misinformation.

  5. SamStremlow says:

    I appreciate Dave Reid’s tenacity in combatting NieWiederKrieg’s ubiquitous presence in these comment sections. It must be tedious because Krieg hasn’t written a new thought in months.

    We get it. You hate vaccines, you love Germany, and you miss the bakeries that existed in Milwaukee 40 years ago. No one is confused about your feelings on these points. I’m not sure who you’re still trying to convince at this point.

  6. NieWiederKrieg says:


    Never said I hated vaccines. Anyone who wants a shot should be able to get a shot.

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