Politicization of COVID-19 health-protective behaviors in the United States: Longitudinal and cross-national evidence

PsyCorona Collaboration, Wolfgang Stroebe, Michelle R. vanDellen*, Georgios Abakoumkin, Edward P. Lemay, William M. Schiavone, Maximilian Agostini, Jocelyn J. Bélanger, Ben Gützkow, Jannis Kreienkamp, Anne Margit Reitsema, Jamilah Hanum Abdul Khaiyom, Vjolica Ahmedi, Handan Akkas, Carlos A. Almenara, Mohsin Atta, Sabahat Cigdem Bagci, Sima Basel, Edona Berisha Kida, Allan B.I. BernardoNicholas R. Buttrick, Phatthanakit Chobthamkit, Hoon Seok Choi, Mioara Cristea, Sára Csaba, Kaja Damnjanović, Ivan Danyliuk, Arobindu Dash, Daniela Di Santo, Karen M. Douglas, Violeta Enea, Daiane Gracieli Faller, Gavan Fitzsimons, Alexandra Gheorghiu, Ángel Gómez, Ali Hamaidia, Qing Han, Bertus F. Jeronimus, Yasin Koc, Joshua Krause, Maja Kutlaca, Anton Martinez, Kira O. McCabe, Solomiia Myroniuk, Boglárka Nyúl, Michelle K. Ryan, Edyta Sasin, Samiah Sultana, Jolien Anne van Breen, Kees van Veen, N. Pontus Leander

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

During the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. conservative politicians and the media downplayed the risk of both contracting COVID-19 and the effectiveness of recommended health behaviors. Health behavior theories suggest perceived vulnerability to a health threat and perceived effectiveness of recommended health-protective behaviors determine motivation to follow recommendations. Accordingly, we predicted that—as a result of politicization of the pandemic—politically conservative Americans would be less likely to enact recommended health-protective behaviors. In two longitudinal studies of U.S. residents, political conservatism was inversely associated with perceived health risk and adoption of health-protective behaviors over time. The effects of political orientation on health-protective behaviors were mediated by perceived risk of infection, perceived severity of infection, and perceived effectiveness of the health-protective behaviors. In a global cross-national analysis, effects were stronger in the U.S. (N = 10,923) than in an international sample (total N = 51,986), highlighting the increased and overt politicization of health behaviors in the U.S.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0256740
Number of pages22
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume16
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct-2021

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