The Effect of Policy Responses to Infectious Disease on Feelings of Fear and Anxiety
12 Pages Posted: 2 Nov 2020 Last revised: 20 Nov 2020
Date Written: October 17, 2020
To successfully address large-scale public health threats such as the novel coronavirus outbreak, policymakers need to limit feelings of fear and anxiety that threaten social order and political stability. We study how policy response to an infectious disease affects mass fear using data from a survey experiment conducted on a representative sample of the adult population in the United States (N=5,461). We find that fear and anxiety are strongly affected by the final policy outcome, relatively mildly by the severity of the initial outbreak, and minimally by policy response type and rapidity. This result holds across various subgroups of individuals regardless of their partisan identification, level of exposure to coronavirus, knowledge of the virus, and several other theoretically relevant characteristics.
Keywords: policy response, public opinion, anxiety, fear, political behavior, survey experiment, COVID-19, infectious disease, public health
JEL Classification: C90, I12, I18, I28, K10, P16
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation