Political polarization distorts risk perception

Academic research has shown that perceptions of risk of COVID-19 varies with the level of support for President Trump. It doesn’t require much of a leap of imagination that perceptions of risk regarding other highly politicized issues such as crime and climate change evince a similar pattern. 

Why does it matter? People’s behavior and actions are influenced by their risk perceptions. This affects their own welfare. If you don’t think COVID-19 is a threat — and it really is — you are more likely to go out in crowds and get sick. If you do think COVID-19 is a threat — and it really isn’t — you are more likely to keep your kids out of school when they don’t need to be. 

Op-ed by Stuart Shapiro, The Hill, September 14, 2020