U.S. Political Partisanship and COVID-19: Risk Information Seeking and Prevention Behaviors.

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The global pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) poses serious health risks to humans; yet, despite recommendations by governments and health organizations, a significant number of Americans are not engaging in preventive behaviors. To understand and explain this phenomenon, we seek guidance from a theoretical model that merges the risk information seeking and processing model and the theory of planned behavior. Furthermore, given the politicized nature of the pandemic in the U.S., we pose different information seeking patterns according to media partisanship, asserting that partisanship is likely to affect cognitive structures regarding COVID-19 decision making. Our results suggest two distinct routes for information seeking to decision-making. Conservative media use is directly associated with preventive behavior avoidance, while liberal media use is indirectly associated with preventive behavior engagement. This work contributes to our collective understanding of what drives preventive behaviors in the context of health risk, particularly in the case of a highly politicized national health crisis with global implications.

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Authors: Won-Ki Moon, Lucy Atkinson, Lee Ann Kahlor, Chungin Yun, Hyunsang Son