More than Words: Leaders' Speech and Risky Behavior During a Pandemic

39 Pages Posted: 8 May 2020

See all articles by Nicolas Ajzenman

Nicolas Ajzenman

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

Tiago Cavalcanti

University of Cambridge

Daniel Da Mata

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

Date Written: May 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 information 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 dismissed the risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and advised against isolation, the social distancing measures taken by citizens in pro-government localities weakened compared to places where political support of the president is less strong, while pre-event effects are insignificant. The impact is large and robust to different empirical model specifications. Moreover, we find suggestive evidence that this impact is driven by localities with relatively higher levels of media penetration and is stronger in municipalities with a larger proportion of Evangelic parishioners, a key group in terms of support for the president.

Keywords: Coronavirus, health, leadership, Persuasion, Risky behavior

JEL Classification: D1, I31, Z13

Suggested Citation

Ajzenman, Nicolas and Cavalcanti, Tiago and Da Mata, Daniel, More than Words: Leaders' Speech and Risky Behavior During a Pandemic (May 2020). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP14707, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3594342

Nicolas 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

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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