COVID-19 and the 2020 US presidential election: Did the pandemic cost Donald Trump reelection?

Marcus Noland (PIIE) and Eva (Yiwen) Zhang (PIIE)

Working Paper
21-3
March 2021
Photo Credit: 
REUTERS/Go Nakamura

By Election Day 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had killed 234,244 Americans and caused the sharpest macroeconomic downturn in US history. Hypothetical calculations using county-level electoral data show that in a “no pandemic” scenario or a scenario in which the severity of the pandemic was mitigated by 30 percent, Donald Trump would have lost the popular vote but won the electoral vote. In the 20 percent mitigation scenario, the electoral vote would have been tied, giving Trump a presumptive victory in the House of Representatives. For the second time in a row (and the third time since 2000), the candidate who lost the popular vote would have been elected president of the United States.

Data Disclosure: 

The data underlying this analysis are available here [zip].

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Marcus Noland Senior Research Staff
Eva (Yiwen) Zhang Senior Research Staff

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