Partisanship in Initial State Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Michael K. Gusmano, Edward Alan Miller, Pamela Nadash, Elizabeth J. Simpson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


In this article, we review state policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and argue that they were driven primarily by partisan politics. Preliminary evidence suggests that the party affiliation of a state's Governor was the most important factor shaping the nature and timing of the response. In particular, we find that Republican Governors were less likely than their Democratic counterparts to issue stay-at-home orders and, when they did issue them, were slower to do so. This finding is consistent with a recent trend in U.S. health policy toward vertical partisan coalitions in which state leaders align their policies with national party leaders even when those decisions may not be in the best interest of their states or supported by a majority of their constituents. In this case, however, since President Trump's response to the outbreak has been inconsistent, many Republican Governors appear to be aligning their COVID-19 responses with the national party's perceived rhetorical and electoral enhancing goals of personal freedom and economic growth/recovery, rather than with President.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)380-389
Number of pages10
JournalWorld Medical and Health Policy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health Policy


  • COVID-19
  • closures
  • governors
  • political party
  • state policy decisions


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