Floyd, B. L. (2022). Does Anything Matter? An Analysis of the Impact of COVID-19 on the 2020 Elections. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.14418/wes01.1.2675
During the first two months of 2020, the novel coronavirus pandemic was not a central part of American political discourse. The first impeachment of then-president Donald Trump dominated the discussion through January and into February, with the Senate ultimately acquitting him with a vote almost entirely split along party lines. With the election season already underway, several salient issues began to emerge as campaign messaging increased. By March 2020, though, COVID-19 became a central issue that would impact the lives of the American people throughout 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic offers an opportunity to examine retrospective voting extensively, as COVID-19 impacted the entire nation, whether through high case and death rates, strict preventative measures, or severe economic consequences. Additionally, the pandemic provides a chance to investigate political polarization. Even before COVID-19 became a critical issue in American politics, a significant majority (91%) believed that "strong" or "very strong" conflicts between Democrats and Republicans existed (Schaeffer 2020). Pandemic-related topics, such as wearing masks, closing schools and businesses, and strict social distancing mandates quickly entered the political discourse. In this thesis, I will search for empirical evidence that voters held incumbents responsible for their handling of the pandemic. Using voting data from previous elections, I will compare vote share differences in 2020 with COVID-19 case and death data. The pandemic began during an election year, and it remained a constant topic in American discourse throughout 2020. Additionally, I will use public survey results to examine the impact of polarization.