The influence of civic associations and exposure to ideological heterogeneity on public views on mask wearing and social distancing


Mask wearing and social distancing have been essential public health guidelines throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but faced resistance from skeptical subgroups in the United States, including Republicans and evangelicals. We examined the effects of participation in ideologically heterogeneous civic associations on attitudes toward public health measures during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly among partisan and religious subgroups most resistant to public health guidelines. We analyzed panel survey data from a nationally representative cohort of 1222 U.S. adults collected in April, July, and November 2020, and July/August 2021. Data on the importance of social distancing and mask wearing were collected in November 2020. Evangelicals and Republicans who participated in ideologically diverse civic associations were more likely to support mask wearing compared to those participating in ideologically homogenous associations (difference in predicted policy support on a 0–1 scale: 0.084, p ≤ .05 and 0.020, p ≤ .05, respectively). Evangelicals in ideologically diverse associations were also more likely to support social distancing compared to those in ideologically homogenous associations (0.089, p ≤ .05). Participation in civic associations with ideologically heterogeneous members was associated with greater support for public health measures among skeptical subgroups. Encouraging exposure to diverse ideologies may bolster support for public health measures to mitigate COVID-19.

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