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The Virus of Fear: The Political Impact of Ebola in the U.S.

April 7, 2020

Speakers:
Filipe Campante, Vice Dean for Education and Academic Affairs & Bloomberg Distinguished Associate Professor

Campante joined a webinar to share insights from his recently released paper, The Virus of Fear: The Political Impact of Ebola in the U.S. In the paper, Campante and co-authors Emilio Depetris-Chauvin and Ruben Durante examine how fear can affect the behavior of voters and politicians by looking at the Ebola scare that hit the US a month before the 2014 midterm elections. 

Campante began the conversation by discussing the politics of pandemics, noting that they typically impact societies in three forms: economic, political, and psychological. He outlined how pandemics may lead to recessions, how incumbents are judged by their crisis response policies, and how the presence of a threat can affect voting behavior.

While discussing findings from his paper, Campante noted how rising concern about Ebola corresponded with a lower voter share for Democrats in congressional and gubernatorial elections, as well as lower turnout rates. This was further exacerbated by Republican politicians, especially those in competitive races, who tried to connect the virus with immigration and terrorism through political advertising. Summarizing the paper’s findings, Campante pointed out that emotional reactions associated with fear can greatly influence elections and in turn politicians strategically respond to issues that are associated fear-triggering factors.

Professor Filipe Campante joined a webinar to share insights from his recently released paper examining the political impact of Ebola in the US.