Polarized Perceptions: How Time and Vaccination Status Modify Republican and Democratic COVID-19 Risk Perceptions

Co-author: Evan W. Sandlin

Status: Under review

Abstract: Previous studies show Republicans have lower risk perceptions of COVID-19 than Democrats. Has this gap in risk perception been consistent throughout the course of the pandemic? Using longitudinal data from the Understanding America Study’s Understanding Coronavirus in America tracking survey we examine how time and vaccination status have changed Republican and Democratic risk perceptions of engaging in various activities (such as grocery shopping, visiting friends and family etc.) as well as risk perceptions of infection, hospitalization, and death due to COVID-19. We find that while Republicans have lowered their perceived risk of activity more than Democrats over time, vaccinated Democrats have lowered their perceived risk of infection, hospitalization, and death more than vaccinated Republicans. These results are robust to inclusion of media consumption and social media use. This divergence on the two measures of risk from COVID-19 may complicate leaders’ efforts to move on from the politics of the pandemic toward a return to “normal.”

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