Pandemic Politics: COVID-19 as a New Type of Political Emergency

Forthcoming in Political Psychology

61 Pages Posted: 20 Oct 2021

See all articles by Udi Sommer

Udi Sommer

Columbia University - Department of Political Science; Tel Aviv University

Or Rappel-Kroyzer

Tel Aviv University

Date Written: October 18, 2021


Does a state of emergency necessarily contract human behavior? In times of security crises, for instance, citizens overcome their divides. Our analysis explores the relationship between county-level partisanship in the United States during COVID-19 and mobility. We provide an original theoretical analysis to distinguish pandemic politics from politics in times of emergency as we had known them. Our framework helps reconcile previous contradictory findings about this type of emergency politics. Such a frame is needed as it has been a century since the last major global pandemic, and since Coronavirus may not be the last. There are five reasons to distinguish COVID-19 from previously familiar types of emergency politics: psychological, national sentiments, policy-, elite-, and time-related. Our extensive mobility bigdata (462,115 county*days from March-August 2020) are uniquely informative about pandemic politics. In times of pandemic, people literally vote with their feet on government actions. The data are highly representative of the US population. At the pandemic outbreak, our exploratory innovative analysis suggests, political divides are exacerbated. Later, with mixed messages about the plague from party leadership, such exceedingly partisan patterns dissipate. They make way to less politically-infused and more educationally, demographically and economically driven behavior.

Keywords: pandemic politics; COVID-19; emergency politics; political partisanship; rally around the flag; US President; mobility patterns; political ideology; residential mobility; workplace mobility; retail & recreation mobility

JEL Classification: I1; I18

Suggested Citation

Sommer, Udi and Rappel-Kroyzer, Or, Pandemic Politics: COVID-19 as a New Type of Political Emergency (October 18, 2021). Forthcoming in Political Psychology, Available at SSRN: or

Udi Sommer (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Department of Political Science ( email )

7th Floor, International Affairs Bldg.
420 W. 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States

Tel Aviv University ( email )

Ramat Aviv
Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv, Israel 62486
9176226009 (Phone)

Or Rappel-Kroyzer

Tel Aviv University ( email )

Tel Aviv

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