Is it true that Republican voters are dying of COVID at 5X the rate as Democrats, as claimed by Neil deGrasse Tyson?

The claim was made in this Tweet:

If he says somewhere where this data comes from, I cannot find it.

He gives the answer himself a few tweets later:

Thanks for asking. Twitter, of course, does not lend itself to full citations.

I derived the number from published COVID-19 death rates of unvaccinated people (about 1,000 per day). And from the polls that show 25% of Republican voters are unvaccinated, versus 5% of Democrats.

Doesn’t seem like a very robust analysis, even if it is probably (approximately) true.

Never mind…

He needs to account for ages of voters.

Well, maybe. The original tweet treats both parties as groups. It is of course possible that Simpson’s paradox is in play here:

I.e., it may be that Republicans are dying at lower rates than Democrats for any given age cohort, but do worse as a group due to being older overall.

Of course it’s extremely unlikely that the effect could be that strong. And there are other factors at play, not all of which favor Republicans.

Anyway, the tweet doesn’t bear much thought since not much analysis went into it. It would be interesting to see a statisticians take on it, though.

I don’t doubt for one moment that Republicans are dying much more of Covid than Democrats, but his analysis seems extremely lazy and rife with bad assumptions. It most likely wouldn’t be as tidy as “5x fewer Republicans are vaccinated, therefore 5x more are dying.” There’s all kinds of other factors that would be at play here.

Neil deGrasse Tyson is more of a celebrity personality than scientist now. And has become quite full of himself. His science credibility now rivals the medical credibility of Dr. Oz. Neil is a statistician now??

Both were once great in their particular fields but now are now both convinced that they know much more, in all fields, than they do, and that people just love to hear from them. Which, unfortunately, many people still do.

Yeah, this basically seems to be Tyson’s MO these days, which is odd, given his reputation. Here’s a random collection of his fuck-ups. More aren’t hard to find.

Were the statement framed as part of a proposal to a mere proposal to a dissertation committee, it would be accepted, depending on the intent and method of follow up. The data out there on the matter is highly incomplete, with the independent variables being how one half the population thinks these days and operates as a cohesive social unit–i.e., those who embrace the comforting narratives of conspiracy theories. The methods of U. Chicago researcher, Eric Oliver, would be the way to disprove the null hypothesis–that is, to prove the statement that “there is no significant difference between Democrats and Republicans on vaccination rates and covid death.” Actually, the unvaccinated are hospitalized at over 5x the rate of the unvaccinated as of today. So far, Tyson’s comment is not publishable as empirical research, but is sociological commentary. It is a credible statement based on “eyeballing of the data,” and presented as an effort to bring the misinformed to their senses and to get vaccinated (or accept the consequences). Given what we know so far, it rests on a rational foundation and is worthy of follow-up based on self-description and outcome (assuming the party affiliation of the dying can be gotten–which it can). The best research of the time demonstrates that the great majority of the population embracing conspiracy theories are self-identified conservatives, with only a few loonies lurking on the left. Read the research. He’s in the right ball park.

Welcome, @DrR!

It appears that he used a premise as proof. He stated rates, which could be incorrect in some way, then said “See, those rates prove it.” As though other factors couldn’t affect the outcome? Not convincing…

While the number is going to be extremely difficult to nail down, based on what we do know I’d be far more shocked if Republicans died at 2X the rate than at 5X, if we start with deaths this summer. I don’t recall any other time when I’ve seen a group this large tempt fate this greatly.

And race/ethnicity. Aren’t minorities unvaccinated at much higher rates than white people, and, consequently, dying at higher rates? Since minorities are more likely to be Democrat, this would suggest he’s looking at the wrong variables. In reality, it’s likely a combination of things & he’s wildly oversimplifying.

If you make a number of assumptions, then his statement is true:

  1. The polls about vaccination status and political affiliation are correct, and
  2. There are equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans
  3. An unvaccinated Democrat and an unvaccinated Republican are equally likely to die from COVID-19

The third item is particularly problematic. On the one hand, Republicans tend to live in rural areas with low transmission rates, on the other hand they tend to be older, and hence more vulnerable.

He also doesn’t seem to have accounted for people who are neither Democrat nor Republican.

Vaccine hesitancy for Blacks and, especially, Hispanics have dropped dramatically while White Republicans remains constant. Republicans are trying to blame Blacks for low vaccination rates, but there are a lot more White Republicans in the population than Black Democrats. In addition, White Democrats have the highest vaccination rates and their numbers are significant even in red states.

I know nothing about this 5X dying rate though and he deleted his tweet. LOL.

I am surprised the unvaccinated percentages are that low. Is this accurate by other measures than polls?

I did some charting, pre-vaccine, of survival rates by political ideology, post-infection. That is to say: How good the quality of care is in local hospitals for Covid patients.

I don’t recall the exact numbers but there was a linear slope by party affiliation and your chances were worse the more Republican your county.

This article from the NYT reprinted in the Seattle Times supports the proposition:

Neil deGrasse Tyson may be a showboat who may tweet off the cuff, but he is orders of magnitude more a scientist than Dr. Oz. In fact, Dr. Oz isn’t even a scientist. Plus, Dr. Oz has become nothing but a scam artist.