Report card: GOP-led states ranked higher than blue states for COVID-19 responses, outcomes

by Will Tubbs

Chris Lange, FISM News


A new study has found that Democratic-led states fared far worse than those with Republican leadership in their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study, published by the Committee to Unleash Prosperity, ranked each state through a comprehensive analysis of COVID-19 policies and outcomes based on number of deaths, the economy, and the impact of policies on education.

States with the most stringent lockdowns and longest school closures dominated the bottom 10 of the study’s “report card,” including California, New York, and New Jersey, while Florida was listed among the best-performing states, joined by Utah, Nebraska, and Vermont, all governed by Republicans. 

New Jersey was the worst-performing state, the study found, while New York performed “poorly on every measure,” ranking 49th overall. Both states directed nursing homes to take in patients infected with COVID-19 at the height of the pandemic, which likely contributed to their high mortality rates. Democratic-led California, Illinois, and Washington, D.C. also received “F” grades.

“They had high age-adjusted death rates, they had high unemployment and significant GDP losses, and they kept their schools shut down much longer than almost all other states,” the report reads.

“Shutting down their economies and schools was by far the biggest mistake governors and state officials made during COVID, particularly in blue states,” Stephen Moore, one of the study’s authors and co-founder of the Committee To Unleash Prosperity, said Monday.


The study also indicates that states that locked down businesses, schools, restaurants, and churches for lengthy periods did not have lower death rates than states that largely remained open. Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis lifted COVID restrictions earlier in the pandemic, ranked 28th in mortality, just below 27th-ranked California, which had some of the strictest lockdowns in the country.

In terms of economic performance, researchers found that states that shut down their economies in response to the pandemic have averaged two percentage points higher in unemployment rates than states that did not. 

“These high state unemployment rates have persisted for two years now. Most lockdown states have still not fully recovered the jobs lost in the early months of COVID,” the report reads.

Researchers also noted “a strong relationship between the states that had poor economic performance and closed schools – the lockdown states.” New York ranked 33rd for the least impact to education and second-to-last for its economic performance, while California ranked 50th in education disruptions and 40th for the economy.

Comparatively, Florida was third for the least impact to education and 13th in economic performance.

“We hope the results of this study will persuade governors not to close schools and businesses the next time we have a new virus variant,” the report reads.

The researchers noted that, throughout the pandemic, the media and the Biden administration frequently disparaged Florida for remaining open while holding California up as a model for its harsh lockdowns.  

“This study shows that the death rate in the states when adjusting for age and other comorbidities were nearly the same. But Florida’s economy performed much better than California’s, and Florida kids lost far fewer days of schooling than did kids in California,” the researchers conclude.

The study was authored by University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan, Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation and Phil Kerpen from the Committee to Unleash Prosperity.

The results were also published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.