The Role of Political Belief in COVID-19 Vaccine Resistance, Virus Transmission, and Closure Policy Response

Danny Ben-Shahar, Stuart Gabriel*, Roni Golan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

We employ unique panel data on the universe of COVID-19 vaccination and infection cases in Israel to examine the role of political belief in COVID-19 vaccine uptake, virus transmission, and closure policy response. The paper identifies political beliefs based on statistical area votes in national elections held in Israel on the eve of the COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020. Unlike the U.S. and elsewhere, pandemic policy intervention in Israel was broadly supported by politicians across the belief spectrum. As such, household response to virus risk was not biased by contemporaneous partisan disagreement and debate among political leaders. Findings show, all things equal, that in the wake of emergent and localized virus risk, voters in politically right-of-center and religious areas displayed substantially higher odds of both vaccine resistance and virus transmission as compared to their left-center counterparts. Moreover, political belief is highly salient to aggregate pandemic outcomes. Model simulation shows that had all areas responded to virus risk with the more risk-averse behaviors of left-of-center areas, the number of vaccinations nationwide would have increased by 15 percent. That same scenario results in a full 30 percent reduction in total infection cases. Results also show that coercive policy measures such as economic closure were more effective in reducing virus transmission among less risk-averse right-wing and religious areas. Findings provide new evidence of the role of political belief in household response to health risks. Results further underscore the importance of timely, targeted messaging and intervention among divergent political belief groups to reduce vaccine hesitancy and enhance disease control. Future studies should explore the external validity of findings, including the use of individual voter data, if available, to evaluate political belief effects.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1046
JournalVaccines
Volume11
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2023

Funding

FundersFunder number
Alrov Institute for Real Estate Research
Henry Crown Institute of Business Research in Israel

    Keywords

    • health risk
    • policy response
    • political belief
    • vaccine resistance

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