Promoting higher social distancing and stay-at-home decisions during COVID-19: The underlying conflict between public health and the economy. Academic Article uri icon


  • Social distancing and stay-at-home orders were implemented as a quick response to the public health crisis created by COVID-19. However, these measures led to competing concerns for public health versus the wellbeing of the economy during the pandemic. This drove polarized views and attitudes towards these measures in the US that threatened their effectiveness in controlling the spread of infections. Our study addresses this point by investigating uptake of messaging treatments that highlight the health risks of COVID-19. We also investigate how priming economic risk of COVID-19 affects responsiveness to the health information messaging. A sample of 1200 US respondents were randomly assigned to a control and four messaging treatments that included information about risks of COVID-19 on own health, public health, the economy, and combination of public health and the economy, respectively. Our results indicate a significant difference in messaging uptake based on political partisanship. Individuals identifying as Democrats increased their social distancing and stay-at-home decisions in response to all information treatments, contrary to Republicans who showed no significant change in their behavior. Using a latent class analysis model, we classify individuals into three main types (dismissive, amenable, and conscious) that differ in their perceptions of the risks associated with COVID-19. We show that only amenable individuals, who account for approximately 34% of the sample, respond significantly to the messaging treatments.

published proceedings

  • Saf Sci

author list (cited authors)

  • Kassas, B., & Nayga, R. M.

citation count

  • 3

complete list of authors

  • Kassas, Bachir||Nayga, Rodolfo M

publication date

  • January 2021