• Amanda Jang and Jace Park

Attack! COVID on the 2020 Election

Alright, let’s admit it: most of you had been sitting around in your house, playing video games, texting your friends, avoiding any human contact due to COVID-19 –– as you should be (well, except for the rising juniors and seniors). Then on June 2nd, 2020, your Instagram blows up with black squares and the hashtag #blackouttuesday in support of the BLM movement. Suddenly, you become aware of the small and large events that are occurring now that more and more students are taking interest in the current news and issues, and are subsequently reposting them on their Instagram feeds. Then it hits you: it’s election day soon –– a huge, huge event that would decide the leader of the United States for the next 4 years (and possibly our fate in face of COVID-19).


When the unprecedented pandemic first hit the US, both candidates for the presidential election quickly shifted their focus to attracting supporters online. In order to captivate U.S. voters, the campaigns, fundraisers, and field-organizer hangouts had to be creative. For example, a Texas Democrate Senate Nominee recently invited the cast of Supernatural to his talk show for the purpose of fundraising. Other than featuring celebrities, the presidential candidates also continue to turn to Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter, mainly targeting people between the ages of twenty and forty, who often check social media on a daily basis, especially during quarantine.


According to Andrew Arenge, a director of operations for Penn's Program on Opinion Research at the University of Pennsylvania, who has tracked ads on Facebook, the “Trump campaign was really good with Facebook ads in 2016 and that potentially was what could have made the difference for them.” He also discovered that Biden has been targeting states with greater numbers of Democrats. We’ll figure how that plays out after the official results are out in just a few months.


While presidential candidate Joe Biden and the Democratic party have run an almost completely online campaign, Donald Trump and his Republican party seem to prefer the traditional techniques of live rallies and human contact, suggesting the contrasting reactions of the candidates toward COVID-19. According to an article written in early August, Joe Biden’s campaign claimed that it has knocked on no doors, while Donald Trump and the GOP says that they have knocked over 1 million doors in one week.


To the casual observer, Joe Biden and the Democratic party are focusing on safety, while Donald Trump and his Republican Party, or GOP, are focusing on getting more votes. One might suspect that fewer people would be receptive to Trump’s direct campaign, but data tell us otherwise. 85% of the doors knocked on would open their doors for the Trump campaign, perhaps due as much to boredom as to heightened interest in the 2020 presidential election compared to the previous years.


Not only did COVID-19 affect the way each presidential candidate targeted American citizens’ brains, but also the way those citizens would vote. The number of mail-in-voters, or absentee voters, are expected to be much greater this year compared to the previous years. Though a higher percentage of mail-in-voting would lower the risk of the virus’ spread, the Trump campaign continues to question the validity/security of mail-in-voting.. However, researchers have determined that there was a minimal chance of fraud based on mail-in-voting in the past years. According to a 2017 study by the Brennan Center for Justice, the rate of the U.S. mail-in-voting fraud is in between 0.00004% and 0.00009%, which is very minimal. Moreover, in several states, individual’s mail-in-ballots are able to be tracked to ensure that every individual’s vote is being counted. Further complicating matters, there’s a decent chance that we will not know the final results by election night, since election workers must process ballots from millions of different households.


The reactions of the presidential candidate towards the virus spreading in the U.S. might also affect the results of the 2020 election in November. Recently, Bob Woodward, a journalist who had interviewed President Trump in the early stages of the virus’ spread revealed a conversation he had with Donald Trump. To prove that Trump attempted to downplay the virus, Woodward posted a voice record of Trump, who admitted that the COVID-19 virus is much more of a threat than the flu, which takes approximately 8,200 to 20,000 lives in the U.S. each year.


Trump’s assertion flatly contradicted his speeches at the time. He had been telling citizens that the virus was a disease that would “disappear” quickly. only leave a short, temporary impact to the country. On the other hand, Trump explained that he wanted to calm the public. He also defended himself by adding that Woodward didn’t post the voice recording right after the interview since Woodward himself also knew that Trump’s actions sounded reasonable at the time.


Joe Biden and the Democratic party, on the other hand, took a different stance towards the situation. He loudly criticized Trump for his “downplaying” of the virus. By proposing his plan to beat COVID once he would become president and even establishing a website listing its details, Biden hoped to gain public trust, particularly of those worried about the pandemic.

We will not know the election results until after (perhaps well after) November 3rd, but we can rest assured that COVID-19 will play a role in determining who wins the presidency.