There is a chain of events that has almost certainly happened at least once in the United States this year. A person eligible for a coronavirus vaccination decides against getting it, having seen articles in right-wing media or coverage on Fox News misleadingly or falsely downplaying the efficacy and safety of immunization. That person has then contracted covid-19 and died.

Figuring out how many times this has occurred is trickier. For one thing, there can be myriad reasons for not getting vaccinated, including lack of access and calculated opposition. For another, vaccination vastly reduces the chances of contracting and dying of covid-19, but that still can occur. For a third, examples that we might have are necessarily anecdotal: Just because one woman’s child says that a conservative media personality persuaded her not to get vaccinated before her death doesn’t mean that’s common or even true.

The best we can do, then, is to look at broad patterns and figure out whether we can see the sort of correlation we would expect to see with vaccinations, politics and deaths. And: We can.

The Kaiser Family Foundation, which has done excellent work tracking the pandemic over the past 20 months, released a new estimate this week that put the number of preventable covid-19 deaths at about 90,000 in the past four months. Most of those deaths occurred after the spike in new cases from the emergence of the delta variant at the end of June.

(It’s useful to understand what constitutes “preventable” here. In short: deaths that occurred among the unvaccinated, with an age-based adjustment downward to account for the fact that vaccines do not prevent all deaths.)

Kaiser also conducts polling looking at self-described willingness to get vaccinated. It found that the group most resistant to vaccination is and has long been Republicans. More than a fifth of Republicans say they won’t get a dose of a vaccine (though vaccine requirements may soften that opposition).

What did we see this summer? Looking at county-level data on vaccinations and deaths (data that excludes a number of counties in which data isn’t reported), we see two trends. The first was that deaths in counties that voted for Donald Trump in 2020 surged past the number of deaths in counties that voted for Joe Biden. The second was that the percentage of fully vaccinated people in Biden-voting counties consistently tracked ahead of the percentage in Trump-voting ones. In fact, by the end of September, a lower percentage of residents of Trump-voting counties had been vaccinated than had been vaccinated in Biden-voting ones by the end of June.

As we’ve reported previously, 2020 voting and vaccination rates correlate strongly. In other words, more pro-Trump counties are pretty consistently less vaccinated. (Top left on the graph below is strongly pro-Biden and heavily vaccinated; bottom right is strongly pro-Trump and less vaccinated.)

The pattern over the summer, then, was that Biden-voting counties continued to outpace Trump-voting ones in vaccinations — and that Trump-voting counties continued to make up more of the coronavirus death toll.

What’s important to remember, too, is that there are a lot more people in those Biden-voting counties. If we adjust the death toll by population, we see that Trump-voting counties really pulled away from Biden-voting ones over the course of the fourth wave.

So we’ve connected some dots: more deaths in more Republican places that are less vaccinated, comporting with Kaiser’s assessments of the number of preventable deaths. These are correlations, not necessarily proof that Republicans are suffering more preventable deaths. There was a surge in the more-Republican Sun Belt last summer, too, as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) liked to remind people as his state made up a disproportionately large share of deaths this summer. Here, though, we’re looking at counties nationally, not just at states. What’s more, it’s possible that Florida’s vaccination numbers were inflated by winter residents who usually reside in northern states, leaving the state more at risk.

Now, we come to the other side of the political question, the one that’s harder to answer. How many of these people who didn’t get vaccinated chose not to do so? There’s been good reporting on barriers to vaccine access, including location and scheduling. Deaths of those who couldn’t get vaccinated are as preventable as the deaths of those who chose not to.

To answer this question, we have little recourse but to look at anecdotal data — for example, that Fox News’s prime-time programming, heavily watched and often cited by Republicans as a trusted news source, has consistently and relentlessly spurred skepticism about the vaccines. Analysis by the watchdog group Media Matters found that Fox News aired a segment or commentary undercutting vaccination efforts on every day from April through September, save two. The network continues that effort apace.

The network regularly casts those who resist vaccination or vaccine requirements as heroes and those who adhere to recommendations as guileless sheep. It’s a constant on a network that’s watched by millions of people every night, a group that includes a disproportionately large number of Republican.

To assume that a viewer of that coverage or a consumer of other right-wing efforts to foment a cultural fight over the vaccine was led to not get vaccinated and then died is not only a fair assumption but an unavoidable conclusion.

The question, then, is: How many of those preventable deaths could have been prevented if politics had been excised from the conversation?