National identity predicts public health support during a global pandemic


Van Bavel, J. J., ..,, Vlasceanu, M., ..,, & Boggio, P. S. (2021). National identity predicts public health support during a global pandemic. Nature Communications.


The COVID-19 pandemic is a devastating global health crisis. Until vaccines or effective medications are widely administered within nations, the best hope for mitigating virus transmission is by changing collective behavior and supporting non-pharmaceutical interventions. In a large-scale international collaboration (Study 1, N = 49,968 across 67 countries), we investigated why people reported adopting public health behaviors (e.g., spatial distancing and stricter hygiene) and endorsed public policy interventions (e.g., closing bars and restaurants) during the pandemic (April-May, 2020). Respondents who identified more strongly with their nation consistently reported greater engagement in public health behaviors and support for public health policies. Study 2 (N = 42 countries) conceptually replicates the central finding using aggregate indices of national identity (World Values Survey) and a measure of actual behavior change during the pandemic (Google mobility report). Higher levels of national identification were associated with lower mobility (r = -.40). We discuss the implications of links between national identity, leadership, and public health for managing COVID-19 and future pandemics.

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Last updated on 07/27/2021