(2020). Political partisanship influences behavioral responses to governors’ recommendations for COVID-19 prevention in the United States. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(39): pp. 24144-24153.
Voluntary physical distancing is essential for preventing the spread of COVID-19. Political partisanship may influence individuals’ responsiveness to recommendations from political leaders.
Daily mobility during March 2020 was measured using location information from a sample of mobile phones in 3,100 US counties across 49 states. Governors’ Twitter communications were used to determine the timing of messaging about COVID-19 prevention.
Regression analyses examined how political preferences influenced the association between governors’ COVID-19 communications and residents’ mobility patterns. Governors’ recommendations for residents to stay at home preceded stay-at-home orders and led to a significant reduction in mobility that was comparable to the effect of the orders themselves.
Effects were larger in Democratic than Republican-leaning counties, a pattern more pronounced under Republican governors. Democratic-leaning counties also responded more to recommendations from Republican than Democratic governors.
Political partisanship influences citizens’ decisions to voluntarily engage in physical distancing in response to communications by their governor.