Pandemic Politics in the United States: COVID-19 as a New Type of Political Emergency

Udi Sommer*, Or Rappel-Kroyzer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Does a state of emergency necessarily contract human behavior? In times of security crises, for instance, citizens overcome their divides. Our analysis explores the relationship between county-level partisanship in the United States during COVID-19 and mobility. We provide an original theoretical analysis to distinguish pandemic politics from politics in times of emergency as we had known them. Our framework helps reconcile previous contradictory findings about this type of emergency politics. Such a frame is needed as it has been a century since the last major global pandemic and COVID-19 may not be the last. There are five reasons to distinguish COVID-19 from previously familiar types of emergency politics: psychological, national sentiments, policy related, elite related, and time related. Our extensive mobility big data (462,115 county*days from March–August 2020) are uniquely informative about pandemic politics. In times of pandemic, people literally vote with their feet on government actions. The data are highly representative of the U.S. population. At the pandemic outbreak, our exploratory innovative analysis suggests political divides are exacerbated. Later, with mixed messages about the plague from party leadership, such exceedingly partisan patterns dissipate. They make way to less politically infused and more educationally, demographically, and economically driven behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)769-792
Number of pages24
JournalPolitical Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2022


FundersFunder number
Tel Aviv University


    • COVID-19
    • US President
    • emergency politics
    • mobility patterns
    • pandemic politics
    • political ideology
    • political partisanship
    • rally around the flag
    • residential mobility
    • retail & recreation mobility
    • workplace mobility


    Dive into the research topics of 'Pandemic Politics in the United States: COVID-19 as a New Type of Political Emergency'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this