Follow the Leader? Public Health Messaging and Containment of Mobility During a Pandemic

58 Pages Posted: 17 Feb 2021 Last revised: 28 Jan 2022

See all articles by Sandra Aguilar-Gomez

Sandra Aguilar-Gomez

Universidad de los Andes, Colombia - Department of Economics

Eva Arceo-Gomez

Universidad Iberoamericana

Elia De la Cruz Toledo

Loyola Marymount University

Pedro J. Torres López

Universidad Iberoamericana

Date Written: February 15, 2021

Abstract

The effectiveness of policy measures in the midst of a public health crisis hinges upon widespread compliance with the ordinances. This study explores how leaders’ discourse relates to compliance with stay-at-home orders to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Mexico. It uses county-level mobility data from geolocation events of smartphone users and daily briefings from the President and the coronavirus czar. Quantile regressions, sentiment analysis, and topic modeling are used to shed light on the dynamics between political discourse and containment of mobility. Discrepancies were found between the content and tone of the President’s messages and those of the coronavirus czar. These contrasts translate into differences in the association between the content of the speeches and mobility patterns. While virtually no association was found between mobility and the President’s discourse, mentions of the stay-at-home orders are associated with up to a five percentage point decrease in mobility. Mentions of other guidelines such as washing hands, wearing masks, and social distancing predict a 2-8 percentage point increase in mobility in the interquartile range of the mobility distribution. The discourse’s association to mobility is mediated by awareness of COVID-19-related topics and individuals’ political affiliation.

Keywords: COVID-19, pandemic, public health messaging, geographical mobility, non-pharmaceutical prevention measures, compliance, Mexico

JEL Classification: D83, D91, H11, H12, I12, I18, O54

Suggested Citation

Aguilar-Gomez, Sandra and Arceo-Gomez, Eva and De la Cruz Toledo, Elia and Torres López, Pedro Javier, Follow the Leader? Public Health Messaging and Containment of Mobility During a Pandemic (February 15, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3786398 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3786398

Sandra Aguilar-Gomez

Universidad de los Andes, Colombia - Department of Economics ( email )

Carrera 1a No. 18A-10
Santafe de Bogota, AA4976
Colombia

Eva Arceo-Gomez

Universidad Iberoamericana ( email )

Prol. Paseo de la Reforma, #880
Lomas de Santa Fe
Mexico, Distrito Federal 01210
Mexico
55595040004759 (Phone)
01219 (Fax)

Elia De la Cruz Toledo (Contact Author)

Loyola Marymount University ( email )

7900 Loyola Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90045
United States

Pedro Javier Torres López

Universidad Iberoamericana ( email )

Prol. Paseo de la Reforma, #880
Lomas de Santa Fe
Mexico, Distrito Federal 01210
Mexico

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