A&M behavior study: Pro-Republican, lower-income Americans less willing to self-isolate

COLLEGE STATION, Tex. (KBTX) - A new study from the Texas A&M Human Behavior Laboratory researched the ways in which Americans have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recently, controversy has become ever more clear: some believe the threat is no longer great and the economy should be re-opened, while others believe the threat remains and social distancing should continue.

Marco Palma and his team at the Human Behavior Lab attempted to study these differences within a controlled experiment, first offering real dollars to participants that they could then donate either to supply personal protective equipment for health care workers or to the pockets of people who had lost their jobs.

“There was more support for the health component, but surprisingly the difference was not very large,” said Palma. “We had about 56% support for health compared to 44% support to the income cause. If you look at the proportion of people and how much they gave, the large majority of participants gave to both causes combined.”

Furthermore, Palma reports no significant differences in this question’s responses—not based on political affiliation, nor income level, nor age.

However, when the participants were asked how long they would willingly self-isolate, there was some variation that correlated to income level and political affiliation.

“We found most Americans would continue to stay isolated for approximately 60 days,” reported Palma. “However, people that identified as pro-Republican would only self-isolate for 30-45 days. This could help explain why some Republican-led states are choosing to reopen sooner than Democrat-led states.”

Also, people from lower-income households reported less willingness to self-isolate for an extended period of time.

“People with lower incomes reported that they would spend less time isolating whereas the wealthy said that they could continue staying at home much longer,” Palma reported. “This is presumably because they can afford to stay home and not work.”

For the full conversation, see the video player above.