The COVID-19—the worst pandemic since the Spanish flu—has dramatically changed the world, with a significant number of people suffering from and dying of the disease. Some scholars argue that democratic governments are disadvantaged in coping with the current pandemic mainly because they cannot intervene in their citizens' lives as aggressively as their authoritarian counterparts. Other scholars, however, suggest that possible data manipulation may account for the apparent advantage of authoritarian countries. Taking such a possibility seriously, this paper analyzes the relationship between political regimes, data transparency, and COVID-19 deaths using cross-national data for over 108 countries, obtained from Worldometer COVID-19 Data, Polity V Project, Variety of Democracy (V-Dem) Project, HRV Transparency Project among other sources. Regression analyses indicate that authoritarian countries do not necessarily tend to have fewer COVID-19 deaths than their democratic counterparts after controlling for other factors, especially data transparency. The transparency variable itself, on the other hand, is positively correlated with the number of death cases more consistently (P <0.05). Overall, the estimation results point to the possible data manipulation, not the nature of regime characteristics itself, as a more significant source for the seemingly low casualty rates in authoritarian countries.
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