Morbid Polarization: Exposure to COVID-19 and Partisan Disagreement about Pandemic Response

Posted: 1 Sep 2020

See all articles by Cristian Rodriguez

Cristian Rodriguez

University of California, Irvine, School of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology and Social Behavior; Universidad de los Andes, Chile

Date Written: August 31, 2020

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the lives of all Americans, but the severity of the pandemic has been experienced unevenly across space and time. Some states saw sharp rises in COVID-19 cases in early March, whereas case counts rose much later in the rest of the country. In this article, we examine the relationship between exposure to COVID-19 and citizens’ views on what type of measures are required to deal with the crises, and how experience with and exposure to COVID-19 is associated with greater partisan polarization. We find consistent evidence of partisan divergence in pandemic response policy preferences across the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic: Republicans support national control measures whereas Democrats support welfare policies, and interparty differences grow over time. We find only limited evidence that exposure or experience moderates these partisan differences. Our findings are consistent with the view that Americans’ interpret the COVID-19 pandemic in fundamentally partisan manner, and that objective pandemic conditions play at most a minor role in shaping mass preferences.

Keywords: COVID-19, partisanship, polarization, pandemic policies, risk aversion, terror management

Suggested Citation

Rodriguez, Cristian, Morbid Polarization: Exposure to COVID-19 and Partisan Disagreement about Pandemic Response (August 31, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3684155

Cristian Rodriguez (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine, School of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology and Social Behavior ( email )

4201 Social & Behavioral Sciences Gateway
Irvine, CA 92697-7085
United States

Universidad de los Andes, Chile ( email )

Mons. Álvaro del Portillo
Las Condes
Santiago, 12.455
Chile

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