Authors: Ray Block Jr., Michael Burnham, Kayla Kahn, Rachel Peng, Jeremy Seeman, Christopher Seto
Abstract: Risk assessment and response is important for understanding human behavior across the social sciences. The divisive context surrounding the coronavirus pandemic inspires our exploration of risk perceptions and the polarization of mitigation practices (i.e., the degree to which the behaviors of people on the ``Left'' diverge from those on the ``Right'' side of the political continuum). Evidence from two complementary sources (an original dataset of Twitter posts and a nationally representative survey) lend general support to the idea that risk perceptions moderate the impact of a person's political orientation on their willingness to follow mitigation guidelines: people on the Left are more inclined than their Right-oriented colleagues to follow them, but this polarization tends to decrease as the perceived risk of COVID-19 intensifies. By exploring how pandemic-related risks can create opportunities for perceived ``common ground,'' our results invite a more complex interpretation than those from simplistic analyses of political ideology.