American Government and Politics

Disease, Data, and Dashboards: Explaining variation in COVID-19 Data Collection and Analysis



State governments took on the bulk of data gathering and decision making about the COVID-19 pandemic. As the pandemic continued, responses grounded in scientific evidence faced opposition in our highly polarized political climate. Even state health agencies, normally more insulated from the vitriol of partisan politics, became targets. States also developed their own resources for gathering, advertising, and responding to data about the local conditions of the virus. However, the sophistication of these strategies and the degree to which data has been made public varies. What explains this variation in the collection and analysis of COVID-19 data? This paper introduces a novel index measuring the sophistication of state-level COVID-19 data collection and analysis and tests relevant theories for why some states developed more robust dashboards than others. My findings also speak to the role of experts, expert knowledge, and bureaucracies in crises and their functioning in highly polarized political environments.


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