Vaccine Nationalism Counterintuitively Erodes Public Trust in Leaders

Clara Colombatto, Jim A.C. Everett, Julien Senn, Michel André Maréchal, M. J. Crockett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Global access to resources like vaccines is key for containing the spread of infectious diseases. However, wealthy countries often pursue nationalistic policies, stockpiling doses rather than redistributing them globally. One possible motivation behind vaccine nationalism is a belief among policymakers that citizens will mistrust leaders who prioritize global needs over domestic protection. In seven experiments (total N = 4,215 adults), we demonstrate that such concerns are misplaced: Nationally representative samples across multiple countries with large vaccine surpluses (Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, and United States) trusted redistributive leaders more than nationalistic leaders—even the more nationalistic participants. This preference generalized across different diseases and manifested in both self-reported and behavioral measures of trust. Professional civil servants, however, had the opposite intuition and predicted higher trust in nationalistic leaders, and a nonexpert sample also failed to predict higher trust in redistributive leaders. We discuss how policymakers’ inaccurate intuitions might originate from overestimating others’ self-interest.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1309-1321
Number of pages13
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology


  • COVID-19
  • open data
  • open materials
  • preregistered
  • trust
  • utilitarianism
  • vaccine nationalism
  • vaccine redistribution


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