Partisan Polarization and Resistance to Elite Messages: Results from a Survey Experiment on Social Distancing

20 Pages Posted: 5 May 2020

See all articles by Syon Bhanot

Syon Bhanot

Swarthmore College

Daniel J. Hopkins

University of Pennsylvania

Date Written: May 5, 2020

Abstract

COVID-19 has compelled officials to institute social distancing policies, shuttering much of the economy. At a time of low trust in government and high political polarization, Americans may only support such disruptive policies if recommended by politicians of their own party. A related concern is that some Americans may resist advice coming from "elite" sources such as government officials, public health experts, or the news media. We test these possibilities using novel data from an April 2020 online survey of 1,912 Pennsylvania residents. We uncover partisan differences in views on several coronavirus-related policies. Yet overall, respondents report strong support for social distancing policies and high levels of trust in medical experts. Moreover, a survey experiment finds no evidence of more negative reactions to or less support for social distancing policies when they are advocated by elites, broadly defined. Instead, respondents over 65 prove more likely to adopt expert-advocated positions.

Keywords: elite messaging, social distancing, survey experiment

JEL Classification: I12, I18, H41, M38

Suggested Citation

Bhanot, Syon and Hopkins, Daniel J., Partisan Polarization and Resistance to Elite Messages: Results from a Survey Experiment on Social Distancing (May 5, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3593450 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3593450

Syon Bhanot

Swarthmore College

500 College Ave
Kohlberg Hall 206
Swarthmore, PA 19081
United States

Daniel J. Hopkins (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Stiteler Hall
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.danhopkins.org

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