We’re all anxious about the pandemic. Whom do Americans want to hear from?
To put it mildly, many Americans are worried about the coronavirus pandemic. In recent polling, 60 percent of people worry that they or someone in their family will be exposed, while 70 percent of Americans see the pandemic as a major threat to the U.S. economy.How will these anxieties affect U.S. politics? In our book “Anxious Politics: Democratic Citizenship in a Threatening World,” we examined how political anxiety affects learning, trust and policy support in various situations, including public health crises. Here’s what we found.People who are anxious about health usually put their trust in expertsOur research studied two public health crises: H1N1 and smallpox in the United States. We wanted to find out whether, when confronted with medical crises, Americans trust organizations or individuals with relevant expertise, such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), or those without such expertise, such as the president or non-health agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service.In 2011, we worked together with YouGov to run an experiment with a representative sample of 600 Americans. Respondents were randomly assigned to read a news article that was either a (fictional) smallpox outbreak that occurred 25 years ago in Cleveland or an ongoing (fictional) smallpox outbreak