Wu, J.D. and Huber, G.A. (2021), Partisan Differences in Social Distancing May Originate in Norms and Beliefs: Results from Novel Data. Social Science Quarterly. DOI: 10.1111/ssqu.12947
Objective: Recent academic work on the coronavirus (COVID‐19) pandemic has established a persistent difference between Democrats and Republicans in social distancing behaviors. We uncover a potential explanation for this difference—social norms and beliefs. Methods: We use a series of ordinary least squares regression specifications on novel survey data collected in April through June of 2020. Results: We find that Democrats are more likely to report social distancing than are Republicans, even after controlling for a range of demographic variables that might otherwise account for differences in social distancing and that these differences are found in partisans’ norms and beliefs around social distancing. Our main analysis shows that the partisan difference in social distancing disappears when we control for social norms and beliefs, suggesting their salience in changing social distancing behaviors. Conclusion: Our results contribute to current research focused on mitigating the spread of COVID‐19 by highlighting a mechanism, norms and beliefs, for interventions to target.
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