Our analysis of 7 months of survey data shows that friendships, the economy, and first-hand experiences have shaped and changed views on COVID-19 risks and
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(THE CONVERSATION) Although Americans shared the experience of going through a global pandemic, their individual attitudes towards it varied and evolved – sometimes dramatically.
We study risk perception. Using opinion polls and state-level data, we conducted an in-depth analysis of how American attitudes and behaviors have changed over the course of the pandemic.
Since the first confirmed COVID-19 case in the United States, over 33 million Americans have been diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 and more than 600,000 have died. We wanted to see how attitudes and beliefs correlated with Americans’ perception of risk, wearing masks, and supporting other measures to contain COVID-19.
Here’s what we discovered.
Public health and politics are intertwined
Using statistical models, we examined data from opinion polls from the Pew Research Center, the National Opinion Research Center, the Democracy Fund, and UCLA, as well as our own poll combined with federal data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Moody’s Analytics and National Conference of Legislators State corporations.
In a presidential election year marked by increasing polarization, public health became part of politics.
In March 2020, amid the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, conflicting indications from political leaders undoubtedly played a crucial role in shaping the virus’ risk perception.
Conservatives who were more confident in President Trump and his team’s handling of COVID-19 saw lower risk from the virus compared to conservatives who were less confident in Trump.
The strong influence of political cues persisted. According to our analysis of a June 2020 poll, Republicans who voted for Trump were less supportive of mitigation measures – like canceling gatherings, closing businesses and schools, restricting non-essential travel, and testing a fever before entering public buildings – than Republicans who did Supported Trump less.
Symmetrically, Democrats who supported then-candidate Joe Biden were more supportive of mitigations than Democrats who supported Biden less.
By May 2020, national political influence began to be reflected at the state level. Americans who lived in states with Democratic governors and MPs were more likely to perceive COVID-19 as a threat and adapted their behavior and supported policies to curb the transmission of the virus.
Connected communities tend to slow the spread
When the pandemic spread rapidly in early summer 2020, the CDC recommended wearing masks. Americans with wider social connections and greater trust in others were more likely to have mitigating behaviors such as wearing masks.
Individual behavior is influenced by one’s own community – such as family, friends and neighbors. As information about the pandemic spread, counties where residents had stronger and closer ties with others showed a slower increase in COVID-19 cases as people took more action to contain infections.
Also, people with stronger and closer ties with others were more likely to act for the common good, expecting others to do the same. Trust fostered social coordination, which incentivized people to take actions similar to wearing masks in response to COVID-19.
COVID-19 survivors are less likely to support distancing
In the summer of 2020, as COVID-19 continued to infect thousands of Americans daily, the CDC recommended mitigation measures like canceling gatherings, closing schools, and restricting non-essential travel.
Americans who contracted COVID-19 – or whose family members had the coronavirus – did not necessarily endorse measures to provide relief after their illness. Perhaps acquiring some level of immunity from surviving COVID-19 decreased their perceived threat. The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said: “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”
Interestingly, Americans who had co-workers and others around them were more likely to support COVID-19 than other containment measures. It may be that those with indirect experience became more anxious about contracting the virus by hearing other “horror stories”.
Economic recovery falsely signaled security
In late August through early September 2020, Americans from states whose economies had recovered almost to pre-pandemic levels were less concerned about the pandemic and were more likely to dispense with containment measures. We suspect that the economic recovery gave people the impression that a return to normal is imminent, which has contributed to creating a false sense of security.
Risk reduction closely related to cases and deaths
COVID-19 case numbers and death rates influenced whether people adopted risk-reducing behavior or not. In general, more cases and deaths influenced people to view the virus as a more pressing threat, leading to active defense behavior.
In locations with a low number of confirmed cases or deaths, residents likely perceived the risk as abstract and distant. As a result, their motivation to control the transmission of the virus was weak.
Overall, our research shows that combining timely information with trustworthy, well-connected communities is most likely to lead to collective risk reduction behavior. Perhaps these findings can help the US better prepare for the next pandemic.
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This article was republished by The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here: https://theconversation.com/our-analysis-of-7-months-of-polling-data-shows-friendships-the-economy-and-firsthand-experience-shaped-and-reshaped- Views-on-Covid-19-Risks-163417.