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Flight to Safety: COVID-Induced Changes in the Intensity of Status Quo Preference and Voting Behavior

BISBEE, J; HONIG, DAN; (2021) Flight to Safety: COVID-Induced Changes in the Intensity of Status Quo Preference and Voting Behavior. American Political Science Review 10.1017/s0003055421000691. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

The relationship between anxiety and investor behavior is well known enough to warrant its own aphorism: a “flight to safety.” We posit that anxiety alters the intensity of voters’ preference for the status quo, inducing a political flight to safety toward establishment candidates. Leveraging the outbreak of the novel coronavirus during the Democratic primary election of 2020, we identify a causal effect of the outbreak on voting, with Biden benefiting between 7 and 15 percentage points at Sanders’s expense. A survey experiment in which participants exposed to an anxiety-inducing prompt choose the less disruptive hypothetical candidate provides further evidence of our theorized flight to safety among US-based respondents. Evidence from 2020 French municipal and US House primary elections suggests a COVID-induced flight to safety generalizes to benefit mainstream candidates across a variety of settings. Our findings suggest an as-yet underappreciated preference for “safe” candidates in times of anxiety.

Type: Article
Title: Flight to Safety: COVID-Induced Changes in the Intensity of Status Quo Preference and Voting Behavior
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1017/s0003055421000691
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1017/s0003055421000691
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Political Science
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10133823
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