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It is well-established that news outlets cater to audiences with particular political leanings and present news about important events, such as disease outbreaks, differently. However, the mechanisms through which selected media exposure influences behavior are not well established. Two surveys examined the roles of attitudes and social norms as pathways through which political predispositions (political ideology, partisanship) and news media choices influence health behavior decisions. Using early Covid-19 as a case study, both studies (a student sample [n=315]; an adult sample [n=518]) found liberal news viewing was related to positive attitudes and norms about health prevention and subsequently more enacted preventive behaviors among liberals but not conservatives. Interestingly, watching conservative news outlets was not associated with attitudes and norms about health prevention, nor was it related to behavior. Partisanship, but not political ideology, directly predicted participants’ preventive behavior. These findings suggest that party identification serves as a heuristic for conservatives’ and Republicans’ attitudes and behavior, which are not influenced by news media choice. Partisan differences in media preferences influenced the adoption of preventive behavior via the reasoned action pathways for Democrats but not Republicans, suggesting distinct messaging strategies for health communication based on political leaning.


Author accepted manuscript version of an article published by Wiley in

Yao, S. X., Carnahan, D., & Rhodes, N. (2024). The partisan pandemic: Applying the reasoned action approach to understand the effects of politicizing a public health crisis. Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, 1–22.


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