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Title: A darkening spring: How preexisting distrust shaped COVID-19 skepticism
Despite widespread communication of the health risks associated with the COVID-19 virus, many Americans underestimated its risks and were antagonistic regarding preventative measures. Political partisanship has been linked to diverging attitudes towards the virus, but the cognitive processes underlying this divergence remain unclear. Bayesian models fit to data gathered through two preregistered online surveys, administered before (March 13, 2020, N = 850) and during the first wave (April-May, 2020, N = 1610) of cases in the United States, reveal two preexisting forms of distrust––distrust in Democratic politicians and in medical scientists––that drove initial skepticism about the virus. During the first wave of cases, additional factors came into play, suggesting that skeptical attitudes became more deeply embedded within a complex network of auxiliary beliefs. These findings highlight how mechanisms that enhance cognitive coherence can drive anti-science attitudes.
Delcea, Camelia
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National Science Foundation
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