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Abstract: Non-uniform compliance with public policy by citizens can undermine the effectiveness of government, particularly during crises. Mitigation policies intended to combat the novel coronavirus offer a real-world measure of citizen compliance, allowing us to examine the determinants of asymmetrical responsiveness. Analyzing county-level cellphone data, we leverage staggered roll-out to estimate the causal effect of stay-at-home orders on mobility using a difference-in-differences strategy. We find movement is significantly curtailed, and examination of descriptive heterogeneous effects suggests the key roles that partisanship and trust play in producing irregular compliance. We find that Republican-leaning counties comply less than Democratic-leaning ones, which we argue underlines the importance of trust in science and acceptance of large-scale government policies for compliance. However, this partisan compliance gap shrinks when directives are given by Republican leaders, suggesting citizens are more trusting of co-partisan leaders. Furthermore, we find that higher levels of social trust increase compliance; yet these gains attenuate or intensify depending upon community-level partisan sentiments. Our study provides a real-world, behavioral measure that demonstrates the influence of partisanship, social trust, and their interaction on citizen welfare. Finally, we argue that our results speak to how trust in government may impact successful containment of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Working Papers

(Please contact me if you’re interested in a draft)

  • “Reversals of State Capacity: Norms and Political Disruption”
  • “Under the Cover of Crisis: Electoral Accountability and Policy License”
  • “Inflection Points: Social Norms and Voting for Democracy”
  • “Who Should Fight? Experimental Evidence on Policy Corrections to the Unequal Costs of U.S. Wars” (with Drew Stommes)
  • “Trust Me, Mask Up: Experimental Evidence on Social Trust and Responsiveness to COVID-19 Mitigation Policies” (with Johannes Wiedemann)
  • “Discretion, Efficiency, and Trust in European Public Procurement” (with Johannes Wiedemann)
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