Mobility and Elite Cues: Partisan Responses to Covid-19


Scholars have long demonstrated the power of partisan cues on the public's political views, but it is unclear to what extent this power spills over to non-political spheres. We test whether elite cues on Covid-19 influence social distancing behavior amid overwhelming information about the health risks. We start by confirming that counties which voted for Trump in 2016 were less likely to shelter in place than counties which supported Clinton. Using Trump's skepticism about the severity of the pandemic, we show that Republican-leaning counties were more likely to shelter in place when Trump took the virus seriously. We evaluate the relative importance of elite cues and objective facts on shelter-in-place behaviors via variable importance tests, confirming that Trump's pronouncements play a significant role, particularly in Republican counties. These patterns reflect a story in which elite cues influence not just costless political attitudes, but real-world behaviors with life and death consequences.


Supplementary material

Supplementary Materials
Supporting information to the working paper


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