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An important body of literature shows that citizens evaluate elected officials based on their past performance. In the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, the conventional wisdom in both media and academic discourse was that Donald Trump would have been a two-term president absent an unprecedented, global force majeure. In this research note, we address a simple question: did exposure to COVID-19 impact vote choice in the 2020 presidential election? Using data from the Cooperative Election Study, we find that Trump’s vote share decreased because of COVID-19. However, there is no evidence suggesting that Joe Biden loses the election when no voter reports exposure to coronavirus cases and deaths. These negligible effects are found at both the national and state levels, and are robust to an exhaustive set of confounders across model specifications.
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