Discussion paper

DP16746 The impact of 2020 French municipal elections on the spread of COVID-19

In the first weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, the French government decided to maintain the first round of the 2020 municipal elections that was scheduled on March 15, 2020. What has been the impact of these elections on the spread of COVID-19 in France? Answering this question leads to intricate econometric issues as omitted variables may drive both epidemiological dynamics and electoral turnout, and as a national lockdown was imposed almost at the same time as the elections. In order to disentangle the effect of the elections from that of confounding factors, we first predict each département’s own epidemiological dynamics using information up to the election to calibrate a standard logistic model. We then take advantage of differences in electoral turnout across départements to identify the impact of the election on prediction errors in hospitalizations. We report a detrimental effect of the first round of the election in locations that were at relatively advanced stages of the epidemic by the time of the election. Estimates suggest that elections accounted for at least 3,000 hospitalization,
that is 11% of all hospitalizations by the end of March. This indicates that the health cost of holding elections during an epidemic is important and that promoting ways of voting that lower exposure to contamination is key until the COVID-19 pandemic shows signs of abating.


Cassan, G and M Sangnier (2021), ‘DP16746 The impact of 2020 French municipal elections on the spread of COVID-19‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 16746. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp16746