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America’s Republicans Are Killing Their Voters

Summary:
Despite mounting evidence that vaccination leads to lower COVID-19 mortality rates, many in the US remain skeptical, if not downright hostile. An analysis of the data that isolates the causal effect of voting patterns clearly shows the heightened danger Republicans face. CAMBRIDGE – On May 14, 1962, the agriculture commissioner of Montana, Lowell Purdy, launched what would become one of the century’s great platitudes. “If we can put a man on the Moon,” he declared, seven years before the United States achieved President John F. Kennedy’s goal, “we surely are capable of seeing that our temporary surplus agricultural products are placed in many hungry stomachs of the world.” America’s Republicans

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Despite mounting evidence that vaccination leads to lower COVID-19 mortality rates, many in the US remain skeptical, if not downright hostile. An analysis of the data that isolates the causal effect of voting patterns clearly shows the heightened danger Republicans face.

CAMBRIDGE – On May 14, 1962, the agriculture commissioner of Montana, Lowell Purdy, launched what would become one of the century’s great platitudes. “If we can put a man on the Moon,” he declared, seven years before the United States achieved President John F. Kennedy’s goal, “we surely are capable of seeing that our temporary surplus agricultural products are placed in many hungry stomachs of the world.”

Since then, the formula has become a cliché – precisely because it often makes a pretty good point. Today, for example, one might point out: “If we can produce vaccines that drastically decrease the transmission and severity of COVID-19, we surely are capable of ending the pandemic.” And yet, we have so far been unable to do so, largely because people simply refuse to be vaccinated.

To be sure, in some cases – especially in lower-income countries – the primary impediment to large-scale immunization is limited vaccine availability. But in a country like the US, the main problem is vaccine hesitancy, even hostility. Although the Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency approval to three vaccines – a process that demands rigorous testing – many are convinced they are still “experimental,” and thus unsafe.

As Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the US National Institutes of Health, put it, there are two Americas, and their perceptions regarding vaccination are separated by a wall. For the America that mistrusts vaccines, the expertise of remote authorities and the logic of the...

Jeffrey Frankel
Jeffrey Frankel, a professor at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, previously served as a member of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers. He directs the Program in International Finance and Macroeconomics at the US National Bureau of Economic Research, where he is a member of the Business Cycle Dating Committee, the official US arbiter of recession and recovery.

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