AMERICAN POLITICS & PUBLIC POLICY WORKSHOP
Abstract: There is a documented partisan divide in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States with Republicans reporting lower rates of social distancing behavior relative to Democrats (Gadarian et al. 2020; Marist 2020). I hypothesize, however, that the partisan response to COVID-19 is driven in part by information about racial disparities in mortality rates from the disease. Previous research indicates that White Republicans are more likely to express negative attitudes about African Americans, whereas White Democrats are more likely to express positive attitudes about African Americans. I argue that this difference in racial attitudes between the two parties might affect the partisan response to a disease that disproportionately affects Black people. The results of two survey experiments, including a survey experiment on a nationally representative sample of approximately 600 White Americans, indicate that strong and moderate White Republicans were less supportive of efforts to slow the spread of the pandemic when exposed to information about the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on African Americans. Conversely, White Americans who did not identify as strong and moderate Republicans in some instances became more supportive of efforts to slow the spread of the pandemic.
LaFleur Stephens-Dougan is an Assistant Professor of Politics at Princeton University, where she is also a faculty affiliate at the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics. Dr. Stephens-Dougan earned her Ph.D. in Public Policy and Political Science from the University of Michigan and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Rochester. She is the author of Race to the Bottom: How Racial Appeals Work in American Politics (University of Chicago Press). Her research interests include racial attitudes, black politics, and public opinion. Dr. Stephens-Dougan is also a recipient of grants from the Russell Sage Foundation, the National Science Foundation’s Time-Sharing in Experimental Social Sciences, and the Social Science Research Council.
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