Toeing the Party Line: Politically Driven Responses to the Coronavirus Pandemic in the USA


  • Karen M. Douglas
  • Robbie M. Sutton


Polling data indicate that in the USA, Republicans, compared to Democrats, have been less inclined to take preventive measures against coronavirus. In three studies (Ns = 380, 430, and 393), we sought to find evidence for partisan motivations and to illuminate how they translate into attitudes, behavioral intentions and actual behaviors. Results revealed a consensus that the Democratic party wants people take coronavirus seriously. Thus, while Democrats thought it was aligned with their political interests, Republicans thought it was in their opponents’ interests. Further analyses suggest that perceived party interests mediated the effect of party allegiance on attitudes about the seriousness of coronavirus, and both attitudes and intentions to preventive behaviors (Studies 1 and 2) and specifically attitudes and intentions to wear masks (Study 3). This relationship also held for mask-wearing behavior. Results suggest that people’s responses to coronavirus may reflect a conformity to the perceived wishes and interests of their political party.