Political Orientation and Adherence to Social Distancing During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Italy
25 Pages Posted: 1 Jul 2020 Last revised: 16 Mar 2021
Date Written: July 12, 2020
Many governments have implemented social distancing and lockdown measures to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Using province-level geolocation data from Italy, we document that political disbelief can limit government policy effectiveness. Residents in provinces leaning towards extreme right-wing parties show lower rates of compliance with social distancing order. We also find that, during the Italian lockdown, provinces with high protest votes virtually disregarded all social distancing orders. On the contrary, in provinces with higher political support for the current political legislation, we found a higher degree of social distancing compliance. These results are robust to controlling for other factors, including time, geography, local COVID-19 cases and deaths, healthcare hospital beds, and other sociodemographic and economic characteristics. Our research shows that bipartisan support and national responsibility are essential to implement and manage social distancing efficiently. From a broader perspective, our findings suggest that partisan politics and discontent with the political class (i.e., protest voting) might significantly affect human health and the economy.
Keywords: COVID-19, Coronavirus, Political belief, Protest vote, Geolocation data
JEL Classification: P16, C55, H7
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation