Title

COVID-19 Threat Perceptions and Voting in the 2020 Presidential Election

Date of Award

6-1-2021

Degree Name

M.A. in Psychology

Department

Department of Psychology

Advisor/Chair

Erin O'Mara Kunz

Abstract

The thesis examined associations regarding COVID-19 realistic threats (i.e., concerns about physical health and material well-being) and symbolic threat (i.e., sociocultural concerns) with the likelihood of voting for Joe Biden or Donald Trump in the 2020 Presidential Election. Political ideology and attitudes about racism, sexism, and right-wing authoritarianism (RWA) were considered as well. It was hypothesized that realistic threat concerns would be positively associated with the likelihood of voting for Biden, but this association would be modified by political ideology, with more liberal ideologies strengthening the association between realistic threat and the likelihood of voting for Biden. It was also hypothesized that symbolic threat would be positively associated with the likelihood of voting for Trump, but that this association would be qualified by a significant interaction between political ideology and symbolic threat, showing that more conservative ideologies strengthen the predicted association. Both hypotheses controlled for racism, hostile and benevolent sexism, and RWA. The study was a cross-sectional, correlational design and the hypotheses were tested in two separate regressions, one examining the likelihood of voting for Biden and the other examining the likelihood of voting for Trump. Broadly, the hypotheses were not supported; it was found that political ideology and symbolic racism accounted for most of the variance within the sample. Exploratory regression analyses examined the unique contributions of threat, sex differences, and tested interactions between threat perceptions and sex. In these models, the likelihood of voting for Biden was positively associated with realistic threat and the likelihood of voting for Trump was positively associated with symbolic threat. Results showed that sex did not moderate realistic threat but did moderated the association between symbolic threat and the likelihood of voting for each candidate. Specifically, in men, symbolic threat was positively associated with the likelihood of voting for Trump and negatively associated with the likelihood of voting for Biden. However, for women, symbolic threats had no effects on voting for either candidate. This work showed that University of Dayton students with realistic threat perceptions related to COVID-19 were likely to vote for Biden, regardless of sex. However, symbolic threat effects were only associated with how men said they would vote in the election, thus, sex and gender differences should be considered in future research regarding threat perceptions.

Keywords

Social Psychology, Psychology, Experimental Psychology, COVID-19, Voting, 2020 Presidential Election, Realistic Threat, Symbolic Threat, Integrated Threat Theory, COVID-19 Threat Scale, Sex and Voting, Sex and Threat

Rights Statement

Copyright 2021, author

Share

COinS