RR:C19 Evidence Scale rating by reviewer:
Reliable. The main study claims are generally justified by its methods and data. The results and conclusions are likely to be similar to the hypothetical ideal study. There are some minor caveats or limitations, but they would/do not change the major claims of the study. The study provides sufficient strength of evidence on its own that its main claims should be considered actionable, with some room for future revision.
The article provides reliable evidence, justified by the methods used and the data.
1. The research question is important and well addressed. However, the authors should address better their story about the epidemic affecting vote share for the main political party. The authors claim that citizens vote based on the policies that the government implement or they react to the shock per se. When they explore the latter mechanism, which is also their main conclusion, they use excess respiratory cases as measure of the shock. This is appropriate to a certain extent, since the cases depend on what the government was doing during the epidemic. I am not convinced that they can distinguish between the two stories. They in fact also claim that citizens use information on case load as proxy of government effectiveness, which I agree with. How can they then conclude that “governments may face an electoral punishment that is proportional to the size of the negative shock but independent of government response” and citizens react to the shock per se? I would suggest to better explain how the case load is not the result of policy interventions and how they can actually distinguish between two stories they propose from the introduction.
2. The authors also limited their literature mainly to the recent Covid epidemic and disasters. However, other evidence exists on the effects of other epidemics (for example Ebola) on voting behavior. Here a couple of other studies:
- Fluckiger, Matthias, Markus Ludwig, and Ali Sina Onder, “Ebola and State Legitimacy,” The Economic Journal, 2018.
- Maffioli, Elisa M., The Political Economy of Health Epidemics: Evidence from the Ebola Outbreak (November 6, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3383187 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3383187
How the article contributes to this evidence should be further discussed.
3. I agree that the timing of the epidemic and thus of the response might affect voting behavior. However, I wonder whether in this context there is even room for that to happen. It is my understanding, as reported in the background session, that the epidemic started in March and the first election was in July for a total of only 4 months. Is this time window enough to expect heterogeneous effects? Which government’s decisions were taken before and after the peak of the epidemic? The authors could better explain the timing of policies and the peak of the cases load to let the reader understand what are the hypothesis to be tested.