Belief change in times of crisis: Providing facts about COVID-19-induced inequalities closes the partisan divide but fuels intra-partisan polarization about inequality

Jonathan J.B. Mijs*, Willem de Koster, Jeroen van der Waal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Population-based survey research demonstrates that growing economic divides in Western countries have not gone together with increased popular concern about inequality. Extant explanations focus on ‘misperception’: people generally underestimate the extent of inequality and overestimate society's meritocratic nature. However, scholarly attempts to correct people's misperceptions have produced mixed results. We ask whether COVID-19, by upending everyday life, has made people responsive to information about inequality, even if that entails crossing ideological divides. We field an original survey experiment in the United States, a least-likely case of belief change, given high levels of inequality and partisan polarization. Our informational treatment increases (1) concerns over economic inequality, (2) support for redistribution, and (3) acknowledgement that COVID-19 has especially hurt the most vulnerable. Information provision renders non-significant the partisan gap between moderate Democrats and Republicans but increases that between moderate and strong Republicans. We discuss our findings' implications and suggestions for further research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102692
JournalSocial Science Research
Volume104
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021

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