BACKGROUND: Many US politicians have provided mixed messages about the risks posed by SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 and whether and to what extent prevention practices should be put in place to prevent transmission. This politicization of the virus and pandemic may affect individuals' risk perceptions and willingness to take precautions. We examined how political party affiliation relates to risk perception for one's own and other people's likelihood of SARS-CoV-2 infection/COVID-19 illness.

METHODS: We surveyed members of a nationally-representative, probability-sampling based survey panel (N = 410) to examine their risk perceptions, precautionary behaviors, and political party affiliation.

RESULTS: The more strongly one identified as a Republican, the less risk one perceived to oneself from SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 and the less risk one perceived other people faced. Moreover, those identifying as more strongly Republican engaged in fewer preventive behaviors.

CONCLUSIONS: This differential response may affect virus transmission patterns and poses a considerable challenge for health communications efforts.

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Published in BMC Public Health, v. 22, article no. 298.

© 2022 The Author(s)

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Data collection was supported by the Development Dimensions International Endowed Professorship Fund (MTK).

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Data, syntax code, and survey items are available upon reasonable request from the corresponding author.

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