Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Pittsburgh Finds Mortality Rates Predict Presidential Voting Patterns

Public health researchers track and analyze data on the health status of Americans. The Unviersity of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health has a database on every death in the USA for the past 50 years (MOrtality Information and Research Analytics, MOIRA) that allows scientists to examine geographic patterns of mortality. Using this data system, Pitt Public Health researchers noticed state by state associations between mortality rates and percent of support for the major party presidential candidates in the 2016 presidential election.

[By Mr. Rick Sciullo]

Analyzing data from all 50 states, Dr. Jeanine Buchanich, deputy director of the Center for Occupational Biostatistics and Epidemiology at Pitt Public Health, and doctoral candidate Shannon Woolley, found a strong association between all-cause mortality rates (data from 2014, the most recent data available) and the percent of votes for Donald Trump in the 2016 general election.

The sixteen states with the highest mortality rates all voted for Donald Trump in the election, while 15 of the 18 states with lowest mortality voted for Hillary Clinton. In a more detailed analysis, they found that the death rates among whites (both males and females) were better predictors of votes for Trump than death rates among other race/ethnicities. Although the association of mortality and voting preference is very strong, it is not perfect. Interestingly, a cluster of seven north central states all showed a greater voting preference for Trump than might be expected based on mortality rates alone.

“Much has been written about why Donald Trump won the election,” said Dr. Donald Burke, dean of Pitt Public Health. “These data suggest that Trump voters were expressing dissatisfaction with real problems that included shorter lives and less healthy living conditions. We hope that the new administration will work to improve health and longevity for all Americans.”