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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Political Ideology and Early Restaurant Avoidance During Covid-19


This paper studies whether political ideology affected early restaurant avoidance behavior during Covid-19 in March 2020. Early conflicting narratives about the severity of Covid-19 driven by political leaders and media outlets with liberal versus conservative views may impact the speed in which Republican and Democratic cities adopt safety measures such as avoiding dining at restaurants. I use data on seated dining rates at restaurants from OpenTable and find that cities in the United States with more Democratic voters saw faster declines in seated dining. I also find that cities with more Covid-19 cases saw faster declines in seated dining rates, but this effect is concentrated on early adopter cities. These findings have public health implications which suggest that effective public health policy should take the influence of politics on behavior into account.

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