Personal hardship narrows the partisan gap in COVID-19 and climate change responses

Sara M. Constantino, Alicia D. Cooperman, Robert O. Keohane, Elke U. Weber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The COVID-19 pandemic in the United States was characterized by a partisan gap. Democrats were more concerned about this novel health threat, more willing to socially distance, and more likely to support policies aimed at mitigating the spread of the virus than Republicans. In cross-sectional analyses of three nationally representative survey waves in 2020, we find that adverse experience with COVID-19 is associated with a narrowing of the partisan gap. The mean difference between Republicans and Democrats in concern, policy support, and behavioral intentions narrows or even disappears at high levels of self-reported adverse experience. Reported experience does not depend on party affiliation and is predicted by local COVID-19 incidence rates. In contrast, analyses of longitudinal data and county-level incidence rates do not show a consistent relationship among experience, partisanship, and behavior or policy support. Our findings suggest that self-reported personal experience interacts with partisanship in complex ways and may be an important channel for concern about novel threats such as the COVID-19 pandemic. We find consistent results for self-reported experience of extreme weather events and climate change attitudes and policy preferences, although the association between extreme weather and experience and climate change is more tenuous.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2120653119
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number46
StatePublished - Nov 15 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • COVID-19
  • climate change
  • partisanship
  • personal experience
  • risk as feelings


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