Partisanship, Outgroup Prejudice, and Public Health during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Awarded Scholars:
Shana Gadarian, Syracuse University
Sara Wallace Goodman, University of California-Irvine
Thomas Pepinsky, Cornell University
Project Date:
Oct 2020
Award Amount:

The level of partisanship characterizing the U.S. pandemic response is unprecedented in recent politics. Under typical circumstances, public health crises raise the public’s anxiety, leading them to seek out information and to become more trusting in medical experts, but during the COVID-19 crisis, the information provided to the public by experts and the government has precipitated a partisan divide over the seriousness of the threat. Political scientist Shana Gadarian and her colleagues will examine the extent to which (1) partisanship, (2) race/ethnicity, and (3) racial attitudes affect health behaviors (e.g. wearing a mask, social distancing) and attitudes (e.g., blame attribution, understanding of the scale of the threat, level of worry about COVID-19), experiences with the pandemic, policy preferences (e.g. making tests widely available, government covering the uninsured, immigration restrictions and quarantining) and support for democracy. The researchers hypothesize that partisan differences will endure in attitudes toward policy positions and health attitudes, but that they will change at the local level as conditions change over time, as measured by confirmed COVID-19 cases. RSF funds will support a sixth wave of a nationally representative panel survey, conducted by YouGov, to be fielded after the November election which will include a fresh cross-section that oversamples by race/ethnicity. This additional wave and over-sampling will enable the researchers to track the evolution of partisan and racialized responses to the pandemic. They have a contract with Princeton University Press to write a book. The full dataset and data processing and analysis scripts will be made publicly available.


RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal of original empirical research articles by both established and emerging scholars.


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