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More than Words: Leaders' Speech and Risky Behavior During a Pandemic

Author

Listed:
  • Ajzenman, Nicolas

    (McGill University)

  • Cavalcanti, Tiago

    (University of Cambridge)

  • Da Mata, Daniel

    (São Paulo School of Economics-FGV)

Abstract

This paper investigates if the anti-scientific rhetoric of modern populists can induce followers to engage in risky behavior. We gather electoral information, in-person card transactions, and geo-localized mobile phone data for approximately 60 million devices in Brazil. After the president publicly dismissed the risks of the COVID-19 pandemic and challenged scientific community recommendations, social distancing in pro-government localities declined. Consistently, general in-person transactions increased immediately, while expenses in pharmacies and cases grew with a six-day lag. Results are driven by localities with higher media penetration levels, active Twitter accounts, and a larger proportion of Evangelical Christians, a critical electoral group.

Suggested Citation

  • Ajzenman, Nicolas & Cavalcanti, Tiago & Da Mata, Daniel, 2021. "More than Words: Leaders' Speech and Risky Behavior During a Pandemic," IZA Discussion Papers 14229, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp14229
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    populism; persuasion; leadership; risky behavior; health; COVID-19;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D1 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being

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