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NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Risk Perception Through the Lens of Politics in the Time of the COVID-19 Pandemic

John M. Barrios, Yael Hochberg

NBER Working Paper No. 27008
Issued in April 2020
NBER Program(s):Health Economics, Political Economy

Even when, objectively speaking, death is on the line, partisan bias still colors beliefs about facts. We show that a higher share of Trump voters in a county is associated with lower perceptions of risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. As Trump voter share rises, individuals search less for information on the virus, and engage in less social distancing behavior, as measured by smartphone location patterns. These patterns persist in the face of state-level mandates to close schools and businesses or to “stay home,” and reverse only when conservative politicians are exposed and the White House releases federal social distancing guidelines.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w27008

 
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