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Study Finds GOP Politics Played The Biggest Role Of All In States That Acted Slowly On Coronavirus

A University of Washington study on the implementation of social distancing measures across the country found that there was one consistent theme among places that lagged behind others when it came to implementing the plan: politics.

The White House/Flickr

Studying the issue closely, there appeared to be nothing else that drove governors to act slower than their political affiliation — either to the Republican Party itself, or their allegiance to President Donald Trump.

“Political variables are the strongest predictor of the early adoption of social distancing policies,” the study found.

As a result, GOP-led states tended to delay social distancing, on average, by about three days, compared to their “blue state” counterparts.

“All else equal, states with Republican governors and Republican electorates delayed each social distancing measure by an average of 2.70 days, a far larger effect than any other factor, including state income per capita, the percentage of neighboring states with mandates, or even confirmed cases in each state,” the study said.

So why did Republicans act slower than Democratic governors and states? Besides being worried about the economic impact of social distancing, the study was able to identify one key culprit: the president. Trump’s messaging, it seemed, particularly his downplaying the disease or suggesting things could go back to normal in a matter of weeks, likely made Republican governors more likely to balk at doing anything themselves.

“For governors already reluctant to impose draconian measures, this messaging both provided cover for inaction and may have reduced public support, particularly among Republican voters,” the study explained.

The study also noted that future calls for social distancing — perhaps if a staggered approach is adopted, where two months of social distancing happens with the month after being business as usual — would require governors to act again. If they continued to be reluctant, researchers said, it could be disastrous.

“Each instance will be a test of whether states can act promptly to prevent COVID-19 cases from peaking at unmanageable levels,” the study said. “If Republican governors and states with Republican majorities continue to lag behind, the cumulative impact on those states, and on the country as a whole through spillovers, could be vast.”



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