Some of the states hardest hit by Covid are the least interested in reading news about the pandemic.
With the country in the midst of the worst outbreak since the pandemic began, Covid is once again dominating headlines nationwide – and while the rollout of vaccines offers hope, Covid will certainly not go away overnight.
But not everyone is equally interested in Covid-related news. States that voted for Donald Trump in the recent presidential election are much less interested in Covid-related news, relative to their infection rate. And states that voted for Joe Biden are much more interested in Covid-related news, again relative to their infection rate.
We provided an exclusive look at this data to Axios, whose subsequent article has been widely shared on social networks.
To understand how interest in Covid differs by region, SocialFlow tracked the number of clicks on Covid-related articles shared on social media by state. SocialFlow then adjusted those numbers of clicks by each state’s population to produce a per capita click rate.
As the above map shows, interest in Covid-related news is highest in Michigan and certain states in the northeast (e.g. Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut).
This alone doesn’t tell us all too much, but the results are eye-opening when you compare them with each state’s per capita Covid infection rate.
The above heat map shows each state’s Covid infection rate, adjusted by population, through December 12 as reported by the Centers for Disease Control. The darker Midwest states are experiencing some of the most significant Covid outbreaks per capita, and yet many of these same states are among the least interested in reading news about the subject.
To illustrate the difference between interest in Covid news and Covid cases in each state, SocialFlow ranked the states, from 1 to 50, in terms of per capita Covid article clicks and per capita Covid infections. SocialFlow then took each state’s Covid news rank and subtracted it by their infection rank. This provides a rough view of a state’s “Interest Level Compared to Actual Covid Cases,” relative to other states.
The vast majority of states with positive scores — states where the relative number of Covid cases exceeded the relative interest — were states that voted for current President Donald Trump in last month’s election (and are marked in red in the chart below). States that had a negative score — where relative interest in Covid outpaced the relative infection rate — went for President-elect Joe Biden (blue).
These results illustrate a pronounced divide in how Covid is perceived, which is perhaps not surprising given the polarized political climate. Interestingly there are exceptions, where red states (Florida, Texas, West Virginia) show greater interest than you might expect based on the states’ votes. And the three most unexpected blue states (Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico) all share a dry, arid climate–raising the question of whether something as basic as climate may influence perceptions as much as politics.
The findings underscore just how politicized the pandemic is, and that politicization hasn’t died down despite the election being all but finalized.