When assessing COVID plans, people place party over policy

University of Colorado at Boulder

When a politician we like supports a COVID-19 policy, we tend to support it. But when a political foe endorses the exact same plan, we tend to oppose it, according to new University of Colorado Boulder research forthcoming Jan. 14 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

On a more optimistic note, the global study suggests that while politicians around the world have polarized public opinion during the pandemic, trusted scientific experts may have the power to unify it.

“This study demonstrates that when it comes to COVID-19, as with other contemporary issues, people are much more swayed by who the policy represents than what the policy actually is,” said senior author Leaf Van Boven, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at CU Boulder. “It also shows that people trust and like experts more than politicians—even those from their own party.”

Politicians polarize, experts depolarize

For the study, conducted between August and November 2020, Van Boven and his co-authors presented a survey to a nationally representative sample of 13,000 people across seven countries––Brazil, Israel, Italy, Sweden, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

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