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The Effects of COVID-19 on Public Opinion and Political Behavior in the Americas (DSI-SRP)

Posted by on Sunday, August 15, 2021 in College of Arts and Science, Completed Research, DSI-SRP, DSI-Supported Research, Social and Behavioral Sciences.

This DSI-SRP fellowship funded Xinxin (Amy) Zhang to work in the laboratory of Elizabeth Zechmeister in the Political Science department during the summer of 2021. Amy is a junior with majors in Political Science and Economics and a minor in French.

The project funded by this fellowship aimed to understand the relationship between COVID outcomes (COVID case and death counts) and interpersonal trust in Latin America. Previous literature on disaster and interpersonal trust point in mixed directions, with some findings suggesting that disaster leads to increased trust and others indicating that disaster corrodes trust. This project utilized the 2021 AmericasBarometer survey data in Argentina in conjunction with COVID tracking data published by the Argentine government as a starting point, employing data wrangling techniques to facilitate the construction of hierarchical linear models (HLM) where individuals are nested within states. The state-level variables tested in this multilevel model include COVID case and death count averages across the survey’s data collection period as well as the change in COVID case and death count averages in the three-month period prior to data collection. The latter allowed for testing the hypothesis that people are more sensitive to the direction and magnitude of change of COVID outcomes in their state- whether the pandemic is getting better or worse – than to the actual numbers reported each day. Interestingly, regression results showed that there are null effects for all variables tested, indicating that in Argentina, interpersonal trust is unperturbed by COVID outcomes. Extended statistical analysis examining dependent variables related to interpersonal trust revealed that rising COVID cases is associated with increased trust in the municipal government, consistent with the rally effect.

In addition to receiving support through a DSI-SRP fellowship, this project was supported and facilitated by the DSI Data Science Team through their regular summer workshops and demo sessions.

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