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Polarization and Public Health: Partisan Differences in Social Distancing during COVID-19
Last registered on September 07, 2020

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Polarization and Public Health: Partisan Differences in Social Distancing during COVID-19
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0005632
Initial registration date
April 05, 2020
Last updated
September 07, 2020 5:31 PM EDT
Location(s)
Region
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
Harvard University
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
Stanford University
PI Affiliation
Stanford University
PI Affiliation
Harvard University
PI Affiliation
Stanford University
PI Affiliation
New York University
Additional Trial Information
Status
Completed
Start date
2020-04-04
End date
2020-04-07
Secondary IDs
Abstract
We study partisan differences in Americans' response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Political leaders and media outlets on the right and left have sent divergent messages about the severity of the crisis, and this could potentially undermine public compliance with key measures such as social distancing. Using a nationally-representative sample of Americans, we test whether there are partisan gaps between Republicans and Democrats in perceived risks of COVID-19, in social distancing, in media consumption, and in predictions of future cases. We test how differences in beliefs and actions about COVID-19 are related to differences in political attitudes. We test whether differences in beliefs are due to partisan cheerleading by randomly varying whether predictions are incentivized.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Allcott, Hunt et al. 2020. "Polarization and Public Health: Partisan Differences in Social Distancing during COVID-19." AEA RCT Registry. September 07. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.5632-2.0.
Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
Intervention Start Date
2020-04-04
Intervention End Date
2020-04-07
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
See the analysis plan for more information.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
See the analysis plan for more information.
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
Using a nationally-representative sample of Americans, we test whether there are partisan gaps between Republicans and Democrats in the following categories:
- Perceived risks of COVID-19
- Self-reported social distancing
- The effectiveness of social distancing
- The tradeoff between the economic costs and spread-mitigation benefits. of social distancing
- Media consumption and trust
- Predictions of future cases
We test whether differences in beliefs are due to partisan cheerleading by randomly varying whether predictions are incentivized. We discuss exploratory tests of motivated reasoning and partisan priming.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization done by a computer.
Randomization Unit
Individual-level randomization.
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
2000 individuals
Sample size: planned number of observations
2000 individuals
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
1000 incentivized predictions, 1000 unincentivized predictions
1000 see a COVID-19 cases prediction question first, 1000 see a Trump approval question first (denoted as a partisan prime)
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
New York University University Committee on Activities Involving Human Subjects
IRB Approval Date
2017-05-31
IRB Approval Number
IRB-FY2017-938
IRB Name
Committee on the Use of Human Subjects: University-Area Institutional Review Board at Harvard
IRB Approval Date
2017-11-13
IRB Approval Number
IRB17-1725
Analysis Plan
Analysis Plan Documents
Pre-Analysis Plan for Polarization and Public Health: Partisan Differences in Social Distancing during COVID-19

MD5: 6b133937bc049b8e6c10b86fade92ce5

SHA1: a12fad327c7447904c8444c46d7d91f2f3520340

Uploaded At: April 05, 2020

Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
Yes
Intervention Completion Date
April 07, 2020, 12:00 AM +00:00
Is data collection complete?
Yes
Data Collection Completion Date
April 07, 2020, 12:00 AM +00:00
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
2000 individuals
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
No
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
2000 individuals
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
1013 incentivized predictions, 987 unincentivized predictions. 1013 saw the COVID-19 cases prediction question first, 987 saw the Trump approval question first. Assignment in these groups was not correlated.
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
No
Program Files
Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials
Relevant Paper(s)
Abstract
We study partisan differences in Americans’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Political leaders and media outlets on the right and left have sent divergent messages about the severity of the crisis, which could impact the extent to which Republicans and Democrats engage in social distancing and other efforts to reduce disease transmission. We develop a simple model of a pandemic response with heterogeneous agents that clarifies the causes and consequences of heterogeneous responses. We use location data from a large sample of smartphones to show that areas with more Republicans engaged in less social distancing, controlling for other factors including public policies, population density, and local COVID cases and deaths. We then present new survey evidence of significant gaps at the individual level between Republicans and Democrats in self-reported social distancing, beliefs about personal COVID risk, and beliefs about the future severity of the pandemic.
Citation
Allcott, Hunt, Levi Boxell, Jacob Conway, Matthew Gentzkow, Michael Thaler, and David Yang. Polarization and Public Health: Partisan Differences in Social Distancing during the Coronavirus Pandemic. Journal of Public Economics, forthcoming.
REPORTS & OTHER MATERIALS