COVID-19 and Climate Change: A Snapshot of Policy Priorities in the United States and Canada during the COVID-19 Pandemic | Katie Glasgow-Palmer

COVID-19 has been the largest emerging threat of 2020s. The global pandemic and its response have thus far relied upon expert opinion, state intervention, and tackling an ’invisible enemy’. Many opinion writers have pointed out that these three strategies are fundamental to solving another pressing global emerging crisis – climate change. Some have also seen this crisis as an opportunity to redirect government funds and recalibrate our global economy with a focus on renewable energy and sustainable business practices. But little research has investigated actual global policy preferences from a comparative perspective. Given the exogenous shock of the ongoing pandemic, what are the public’s policy priorities, and how do they differ across countries? Do higher COVID-19 case counts and mortality rates correlate with greater policy preference for COVID-19 solutions? And is the ongoing, longer term existential crisis of climate change lower in rankings in such affected countries? Using a conjoint survey, the present study saw respondents rate policy priorities in terms of urgency and long-term importance, comparing two samples (total N = 2229) from a country with high rates of COVID-19 (United States) and a country with low rates of COVID-19 (Canada), as well as two snowball samples from primarily Oceanian countries. COVID is strongly preferred in terms of urgency and importance, regardless of country. The strongest and consistent correlate of this preference is political ideology, with greater conservatism decreasing the likelihood of prioritizing either COVID-19 or climate change. The author finds that the effect of political ideology varies across countries, with stronger negative effects of political ideology in the United States. Findings from this study provide governments and states with information about the policies they may be pressured to address during the pandemic and in the near future.

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