COVID-19 Information Treatments Shift Related Policy Preferences and Plans for Consumer Behavior
56 Pages Posted: 14 Jun 2021 Last revised: 8 Feb 2022
Date Written: June 3, 2021
We investigate the role of information exposure in shaping attitudes and behaviors related to the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic and whether baseline political affiliation and news diet mediate effects. To do so, we randomly assigned 5,009 U.S. adults to nine brief text-based segments related to the dynamics of the pandemic and the safety of various behaviors. We then estimate how the provision of information affects 15 binary outcomes related to COVID-19 policy preferences, expected consumer behavior, and beliefs about safety. Relative to a reference group, mean effects reach significance (95\% CI) in 47 out of 120 baseline models. The mean point estimate for significant effects is 7.4 ppt. The baseline effects are large for all outcomes except beliefs. By contrast, interaction effects by political party and media diet are significant for beliefs but rarely significant for policy and behavioral attitudes. These findings suggest partisan policy and behavioral gaps are driven, at least in part, by exposure to different and often low-quality information, and that equalizing information sources would lead to partisan convergence in beliefs about the safety of COVID.
Keywords: Beliefs, Behavioral Economics, Consumption, COVID-19, Expectations, Information
JEL Classification: C91, D83, E21, E71, I38
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