2022 journal article
Political polarization of conservation issues in the era of COVID-19: An examination of partisan perspectives and priorities in the United States
Journal for Nature Conservation, 67, 126176.
As a zoonotic disease with unprecedented global impacts, COVID-19 may influence how people prioritize issues related to wildlife conservation. Using a nationally representative sample of US residents, we investigated: (1) how COVID-19 affected the relative importance of conservation issues among adults with different political ideologies, and (2) how the pandemic affected political polarization of conservation issues during the 2020 general election in the United States. Conservation issues such as endangered species and controlling zoonotic disease ranked low in importance among the 14 policy issues considered, even lower than environmental issues such as climate change and environmental protection; however, the importance of all conservation issues increased as a result of COVID-19. Political polarization surrounding the perceived importance of conservation issues also increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, with Democrats reporting larger increases in importance than Republicans. Polarization was driven by the most conservative Republicans and the most liberal Democrats. But this polarization was less extreme than it was for other issues such as climate change and healthcare. Findings highlight the need for communicating links between zoonotic disease and human interactions with wildlife and the environment. Acting quickly may be critical in areas where conservation issues are primed to succumb to political polarization.