When it comes to managing COVID, people place party over policy

University of Colorado Boulder

Title image: President Donald Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence, listen as Dr. Anthony S. Fauci delivers remarks during a coronavirus briefing in April 16, 2020. (Official White House Photo). New research shows politicians polarize opinions around the pandemic while scientific experts tend to unite support.

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 CU Boulder research slated for publication Jan. 14 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

On a more optimistic note, the global study suggests, 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.”

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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