Here’s a summary of a June 29, 2021 study: Social liberals tend to be less pathogen-avoidant than social conservatives, a pattern consistent with a model wherein ideological differences stem from differences in threat reactivity. Here we investigate if and how individual responses to a shared threat reflect those patterns of ideological difference. In seeming contradiction to the general association between social conservatism and pathogen avoidance, the more socially conservative political party in the United States has more consistently downplayed the dangers of COVID-19 during the ongoing pandemic. This puzzle offers an opportunity to examine the contributions of multiple factors to disease avoidance. We investigated the relationship between social conservatism and COVID-19 precautionary behavior in light of the partisan landscape of the United States. We explored whether consumption of, and attitudes toward, different sources of information, as well as differential evaluation of various threats caused by the pandemic—such as direct health costs versus indirect harms to the economy and individual liberties—shape partisan differences in responses to the pandemic in ways that overwhelm the contributions of social conservatism. In two pre-registered studies, socially conservative attitudes correlate with self-reported COVID-19 prophylactic behaviors, but only among Democrats. Reflecting larger societal divisions, among Republicans and Independents, the absence of a positive relationship between social conservatism and COVID-19 precautions appears driven by lower trust in scientists, lower trust in liberal and moderate sources, lesser consumption of liberal news media, and greater economic conservatism.
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