The Disastrous Effects of Leaders in Denial: Evidence from the COVID-19 Crisis in Brazil
32 Pages Posted: 29 Apr 2021 Last revised: 28 May 2021
Date Written: April 28, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the critical role of political leaders in influencing social behavior. Leaders in denial contributed to different outcomes regarding virus transmission. Mr. Jair Bolsonaro is the archetype of a leader in denial. The current president of Brazil made a sequence of television and radio speeches downplaying the severity of COVID-19 pandemic. The content of Mr. Bolsonaro's communications minimized the disease's effects, disregarded the importance of social distance, and stimulated the adoption of treatments without scientific proof of efficacy. Our analysis reveals different responses of the population to Mr. Bolsonaro's speeches. Municipalities in which Mr. Bolsonaro received the majority of votes in 2018 presidential election are more affected by COVID-19 cases and related deaths. This paper associates the denialist attitude of national leadership with his supporters' riskier behavior, leading to disastrous results in terms of lives lost.
Keywords: COVID; leaders in denial
JEL Classification: H40; H41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation