Date of Award

Spring 2022

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Political Science, PhD


School of Social Science, Politics, and Evaluation


Computational Mathematics and Numerical Analysis

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Mark Abdollahian

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Jacek Kugler

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Yi Feng

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2022 Joseph C Immormino


This dissertation offers an adaptation of the relative political capacity (RPC) research framework to domestic American politics, enabling a quantitative examination of the relative performance of state governments during the COVID-19 pandemic. Theoretically, I examine the notion that more politically capable states will be more effective in their efforts to mitigate mortality rates, and hypothesize that, in the United States, such a relationship is conditional upon the party identification of state leadership. The premise is tested by applying a series of multiplicative interaction models to a unique dataset spanning the first two years of the pandemic. Results confirm that measures of states’ structural capacity outweigh public policy, wealth, and population controls in their ability to mitigate pandemic mortality, and that the impact of political capacity grows as the pandemic progresses, eventually becoming a primary contributor to successful immunization efforts. However, the presence of a Republican majority in the state legislature significantly compromises the magnitude of this effect. Results are discussed in context of the principal ideological divide in American politics and an argument is made against the laissez-faire conception of the state. Lawmakers that seek to protect constituents from emerging crises must invest in the development of their institutional capabilities, with particular respect to political extraction and regulatory reach.