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Department of Political Science

Political science faculty conducting research on politics surrounding COVID-19

Members of the Department of Political Science have received four research grants from the University’s vice-provost for research to study the current COVID-19 pandemic. Department Chair Kirk Randazzo comments: “As Chair of the Department of Political Science, I am extremely proud of my colleagues for engaging in research related to COVID-19. The project descriptions demonstrate the importance of examining different aspects of governmental responses to crises. From the preliminary results I have already seen, these research projects have generated insights that possess profound policy implications which governmental actors should take into account as they develop additional responses and alternatives to rapidly changing circumstances.” The following projects on COVID-19 are taking place.
Elizabeth Connors seeks to develop a better understanding of individual behavior during national crises. Local graduate students Chandler Case, Chris Eddy, Rahul Hemrajani, Chris Howell, Daniel Lyons, and Yu-Hsien Sung are part of this effort. The project seeks to understand how source cues and framing influence individual behavior during national crises. In the particular context of the COVID-19 crisis, the researchers examine the public’s reception of the information they receive from medical experts and whether those responses are influenced by if the information given is fact or experience or based on a loss or gains frame. Importantly, they ask if public distrust in experts remains in a high stakes health crisis or if this context drives individuals to listen to experts over “common sense.” Findings will speak to effective (or ineffective) communication strategies during large-scale crises.
Tobias Heinrich is joining Menevis Cilizoglu (St Olaf College) and Yoshiharu Kobayashi (University of Leeds) to examine what prompts governments to close borders for international travel and to which extent people are willing to give up civil liberties. Preliminary findings suggest that cues from the World Health Organization as well as counterfactual considerations—what if the border had stayed open?— explain variation in people’s endorsements of border closures. Similarly preliminary findings reveal that worries about COVID-19 lead to an embrace of more aggressive, privacy-invading public policies but such support declines sharply as the expected duration of these policies increases.
Kelsey Shoub examines how elite cues shape social cleavages. Little is known about how those cues translate into individual action when they conflict along party lines, among party elites, or across levels of government as in the United States. As such, studies tracing elite discourse on COVID-19 and linking it to individual behavior are need. The researchers propose to do by examining elite discourse on Twitter and television news and through a set of survey experiments. Together, these pieces can aid in modeling outbreaks and informing policies—now and in the future. Kelsey Shoub is joined by Skyler Cranmer (The Ohio State University) and Ohio State graduate students for this research.
Katelyn Stauffer and Susan Miller investigate citizens’ compliance with government policies during the COVID-19 crisis. Lael Keiser (University of Missouri) is also part of this research. One of the major questions in a democratic society for policymakers and researchers is how to encourage compliance with the law. The ongoing COVID-19 crisis and subsequent stay-at-home orders provide an opportunity to explore the factors that lead citizens to comply with (or defy) government policies. This study uses mobility data to examine compliance with various state and local stay-at-home orders, and how compliance is shaped by representation, institutional, and other political factors. We couple this observational analysis with experimental data that allows us to isolate the causal mechanisms underlying citizen compliance.

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