More Than Words: Leaders’ Speech and Risky Behavior during a Pandemic

36 Pages Posted: 23 Apr 2020 Last revised: 8 May 2020

See all articles by Nicolas Ajzenman

Nicolas Ajzenman

Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV) - Sao Paulo School of Economics; SciencesPo - Sciences Po - Department of Economics

Tiago Cavalcanti

University of Cambridge

Daniel Da Mata

Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV) - Sao Paulo School of Economics

Date Written: April 22, 2020

Abstract

How do political leader’s words and actions affect people’s behavior? We address this question in the context of Brazil by combining electoral data and geo-localized mobile phone data for more than 60 million devices throughout the entire country. We find that after Brazil’s president publicly and emphatically dismisses the risks associated with the COVID-19 Pandemic and advises against isolation, social distancing measures of citizens in pro-government localities reduce relative to those places in which his support is weaker, while pre-event effects are insignificant. The impact is large and robust to different empirical model specifications. We also find suggestive evidence that this impact is driven by localities with relatively higher levels of media penetration.

Keywords: Health, Coronavirus, Leadership, Persuasion, Risky Behavior, Social Distancing

JEL Classification: D1, I31, Z13

Suggested Citation

Ajzenman, Nicolás and Cavalcanti, Tiago and Da Mata, Daniel, More Than Words: Leaders’ Speech and Risky Behavior during a Pandemic (April 22, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3582908 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3582908

Nicolás Ajzenman (Contact Author)

Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV) - Sao Paulo School of Economics ( email )

Rua Itapeva 474 s.1202
São Paulo, São Paulo 01332-000
Brazil

SciencesPo - Sciences Po - Department of Economics ( email )

28, rue des Saints-Pères
Paris, Paris 75007
France

Tiago Cavalcanti

University of Cambridge ( email )

Trinity Ln
Cambridge, CB2 1TN
United Kingdom

Daniel Da Mata

Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV) - Sao Paulo School of Economics ( email )

Rua Itapeva 474
São Paulo, São Paulo 01332-000
Brazil

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