The Partisan Divide in Social Distancing
34 Pages Posted: 8 May 2020 Last revised: 13 May 2020
Date Written: May 7, 2020
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: Suggested Citation