Leadership, Public Health Messaging, and Containment of Mobility in Mexico During the COVID-19 Pandemic
60 Pages Posted: 17 Feb 2021 Last revised: 4 May 2021
Date Written: February 15, 2021
The effectiveness of wide-spread policy measures in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic hinges upon compliance with the ordinances. This study explores how leaders’ discourse relates to compliance with stay-at-home orders to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in Mexico. We use municipality-level mobility data from geolocation events of smartphone users and daily briefings from the President and Health Minister Dr. Hugo López-Gatell. Using quantile regressions, sentiment analysis and topic modelling, we shed light on the dynamics between political discourse and containment of mobility. We find discrepancies between the content and tone of the President and those of the COVID-19 czar. These contrasts translate into differences on the association between the content of the speeches and mobility patterns. Our findings, using a LASSO penalized quantile regression, indicate that when President AMLO's discourse is positive, mobility tends to decrease, but when the Health Minister's discourse is positive, mobility tends to increase. Across the distribution of mobility changes, those in the inter-quantile range are more responsive to the discourse. We also find that the discourse's association to mobility is mediated by awareness of COVID-related topics and by individuals’ political affiliation. Lastly, we show that mobility patterns prior to the conferences are not causing a change in discourse which clears concerns over reverse causality.
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: Suggested Citation