Politics, income and COVID19 vaccines in Israel

The rate of COVID19 vaccination is strongly correlated with party affiliation. Specifically, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that people in counties that voted for Biden during the last elections had significantly higher rates of COVID19 vaccination compared to those who voted for Trump.

I wondered if the same was true for Israel. So, I download from the Israeli Health Ministry the vaccination rates at 253 towns and cities (as of August 10th), the voting data from our last elections from the Israeli Central Elections Committee and income data from the Israeli National Insurance Bureau. The last source also gave me the Gini index for each location.

I manually labelled the towns and cities as to whether they were predominantly Jewish or not. I also computed the percent of voters in each location who voted for the current coalition government.

Here are a few results. First, in predominantly Jewish towns and cities vaccination rates are strongly correlated with income, but even more strongly (and significantly statistically more so) with voting for the current government.

Vaccination rates as a function of income in Jewish cities
Vaccination rates as a function of the percentage of people who voted for the current coalition in Jewish cities

In predominantly non-Jewish cities the picture is more complicated. First, the correlation is much lower than the one we observed in Jewish cities. More interestingly, while income is still correlated with vaccination rates, voting for the current government is negatively correlated with vaccination rates.

Vaccination rates as a function of income in non-Jewish cities
Vaccination rates as a function of the percentage of people who voted for the current coalition in non-Jewish cities

A linear model of the data (with interactions) bears this out:

The model for Jewish towns reaches R2 of 0.67, which is extremely high. The statistically significant variables are vote for the coalition (positively correlated), Gini index (negatively correlated), and the interaction of income with the Gini index (positive) and with income (negative). Therefore, cities that voted for the government and had less inequality were more likely to vaccinate.

The model for non-Jewish towns reaches a lower R2 of 0.46. Here the statistically significant variables are vote for the coalition (negatively correlated) and the interaction of the Gini index with voting for the government (negatively correlated). This means that the most indicative variable for vaccination rate was not voting for the current government and, in cities that have more inequality and higher income this is even stronger.

My understanding from these results is that, in Israel as in the US, voting is correlated with vaccination rates. I don’t think, however, that one is causal of the other. Instead (at least in Israel) there is probably a third variable driving both. For example, the Arab party which joined the coalition is the Islamic party, who’s voters tend to come from populations with lower income and that live in areas with less access to healthcare. In the Jewish population, one of the main blocks not part of the current government is the Ultra Orthodox, who are also less likely to vaccinate. They are also poorer than the general population.

The bottom line? Vaccination rates in Israel are correlated with political affiliation, but perhaps for different reasons than those in the US.

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