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The impact of public health messaging and personal experience on the acceptance of mask wearing during the COVID-19 pandemic

Todd Cherry, Alexander James and James Murphy ()

No 2020-03, Working Papers from University of Alaska Anchorage, Department of Economics

Abstract: Face coverings have been shown to slow the spread of COVID-19, yet their use is not universal and remains controversial in the United States. Designing effective nudges for widespread adoption is important when federal mandates are politically or legally infeasible. We report the results from an online survey experiment in which subjects were exposed to one of three video messages from President Trump, and then indicated their preference for wearing a mask. In the first video, the President simply recited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. In the second, the President additionally emphasized that wearing a mask is optional. In the third video, the President added that he will not personally wear a mask. We find that exposure to the presidential messages can increase the stated likelihood of wearing a mask—particularly among the President’s supporters. We also explore experiential effects of COVID-19, and find that people (especially supporters of the President) are more likely to support wearing a mask if they know someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, especially if that person died as a result. These results offer guidance to policy makers and practitioners interested in understanding the factors that influence viral risk mitigation strategies.

Keywords: experimental economics; COVID-19; Face masks; Pro-social behavior; Nudges; Field Experiment (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: I1 D71 D9 C93 D62 H12 H42 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020-11
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cbe and nep-exp
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