Denialism, Politics and the Covid-19 pandemic in Brazil: an empirical analysis on observational data

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March 2022
Paper author(s): 
Marta Castilho
Valéria Pero
Mireille Razafindrakoto
François Roubaud
João Saboia
Education - Health
Politics and Economy

Brazil is among the countries most affected by Covid-19 in terms of number of confirmed cases and deaths. This happens in a national context marked by a denialist positioning of the federal government in combating the pandemic. This study examines, along with other socioeconomic, health and demographic factors, how the political orientation of municipalities is related to the Covid-19 mortality rate. Using several sources of municipal data, a negative binomial model is applied, contemplating the two waves of the pandemic. Subsequently, two other econometric models were estimated in order to analyse two different transmission channels through which political factors impact on the Covid19 mortality rate: one associated with non-pharmacological measures to combat Covid-19 (the mobility of people) and another associated with pharmacological measures (the vaccination). Among the factors analysed, the most striking result concerns the ‘Bolsonaro effect’: the estimations show that mortality rates are higher in the municipalities where the president had the most expressive vote in the 2018 elections. This relationship persists over time in the most recent period. The results regarding population mobility confirm that this is one of the main transmission mechanisms of Covid-19 fatalities. Indeed, the Bolsonaro’ score in the 2018 election is also shown to be significantly and positively correlated with the population mobility in particular when the pandemic reached its most critical levels. Finally, the denialist position at the top of the Federal Government does not seem to compromise the complete vaccination rate of the population beyond the first months after the beginning of the campaign. This result suggests to some extent the increasing awareness of the president's supporters of the risks involved and the effectiveness of vaccines against Covid19. But above all, it reflects apparently the success of the National Immunization Program in Brazil, based on a long tradition, recognized at the international level.


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