The Partisan Divide in Social Distancing

34 Pages Posted: 8 May 2020 Last revised: 13 May 2020

See all articles by Keena Lipsitz

Keena Lipsitz

Queens College, CUNY

Grigore Pop-Eleches

Princeton University - Department of Politics and Woodrow Wilson School

Date Written: May 7, 2020

Abstract

Using county-level Google Mobility Report data, which tracked the activity of Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic, we show that Democratic counties reduced their activity far more than Republican counties as the crisis unfolded. To confirm the importance of partisanship in driving this gap, we consider and largely dismiss alternative explanations, including county demographic differences, variation in the geographic spread of COVID-19, and the timing of gubernatorial directives to restrict movement. The analysis concludes with a consideration of the mechanisms driving this partisan divergence in behavior, including the politicization of the pandemic by party elites and conservative distrust of scientific and medical expertise. We show that both played a significant role in encouraging heavily Republican counties to ignore the spread of the virus, even as cases rose in their counties.

Keywords: COVID-19, coronavirus, partisanship

Suggested Citation

Lipsitz, Keena and Pop-Eleches, Grigore, The Partisan Divide in Social Distancing (May 7, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3595695 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3595695

Keena Lipsitz (Contact Author)

Queens College, CUNY ( email )

Department of Political Science
Flushing, NY 11367
United States

Grigore Pop-Eleches

Princeton University - Department of Politics and Woodrow Wilson School ( email )

Corwin Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544-1012
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://scholar.princeton.edu/gpop/

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