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Symptoms and Stereotypes: Perceptions and Responses to Covid-19 in Malawi and Zambia

Ferree, KE; Dulani, B; Harris, AS; Kao, K; Lust, E; Jansson, CA; Metheney, EA; (2023) Symptoms and Stereotypes: Perceptions and Responses to Covid-19 in Malawi and Zambia. Comparative Political Studies 10.1177/00104140231152753. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

A large literature documents Covid-19’s health and economic effects. We focus instead on its political impact and its potential to exacerbate identity divisions, in particular. Psychologists argue that contagious disease increases threat perceptions and provokes policing of group boundaries. We explore how insider-outsider status and symptoms of illness shape perceptions of infection, reported willingness to help, and desire to restrict free movement of an ailing neighbor using a phone-based survey experiment administered three times in two neighboring African countries during different stages of the pandemic: Malawi, from May 5 to June 2, 2020 (n = 4,641); Zambia, from July 2 to August 13, 2020 (n = 2,198); and Malawi again, from March 9 to May 1, 2021 (n = 4,356). We study identities that are salient in Malawi and Zambia but have not induced significant prior violence, making our study a relatively hard test of disease threat theories. We find that symptoms more strongly shape perceptions and projected behavior than insider-outsider status in both countries and across time, suggesting that there are limits to the ability of pandemics to independently provoke identity politics de novo.

Type: Article
Title: Symptoms and Stereotypes: Perceptions and Responses to Covid-19 in Malawi and Zambia
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1177/00104140231152753
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1177/00104140231152753
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.
Keywords: health politics, social policy, health policy, Covid-19, disease threat, prejudice, stereotypes
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/10168153
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