Date of Project


Document Type

Honors Thesis

School Name

College of Arts and Sciences



Major Advisor

Dr. Hank Rothgerber

Second Advisor

Dr. Christy Wolfe

Third Advisor

Dr. Aaron Hoffman


One key to curtailing the health costs of COVID-19 is adherence to social distancing measures. Despite their importance, distancing measures seem to have proved divisive. The present research sought to identify ideological differences in behavioral compliance to distancing measures and to account for the psychological underpinnings of behavioral differences. A first study (April, 2020; N=571) using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk revealed conservatives to be significantly less likely to obey social distancing recommendations than liberals. Differences among conservatives and liberals in adherence to self-reported social distancing practices were significantly mediated by perceived COVID-19 health risk and perceived media accuracy in covering the virus. A second MTurk study (November, 2020; N=537) replicated the previous finding that conservatives are significantly less like to follow (and attitudinally support) COVID-mitigating measures than liberals. Differences in compliance and attitudes between liberals and conservatives were once again significantly mediated by perceived health risk and media accuracy, replicating the results found in the first study. The second study also identified additional significant mediators of the relationship between ideology and compliance: prioritization of the economy, belief in biased science, moral foundations (harm), and support for President Trump. Results from these studies have implications for responding to political polarization during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.