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Pandemic Politics: The Deadly Toll of Partisanship in the Age of COVID

Shana Kushner Gadarian, Sara Wallace Goodman, Thomas B. Pepinsky

Princeton University Press, October 2022

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Shana Kushner Gadarian, professor and chair of political science and Merle Goldberg Fabian Professor of Excellence in Citizenship and Critical Thinking has co-authored “Pandemic Politics: The Deadly Toll of Partisanship in the Age of COVID” (Princeton University Press, 2022).

The book is the culmination of research by Gadarian and co-authors Sara Wallace Goodman, professor of political science at the University of California, Irvine, and Thomas B. Pepinsky, Walter F. LaFeber Professor of Government and director of the Southeast Asia Program at Cornell University, and nonresident senior fellow at the Brooking Institution. It draws on a wealth of new data on public opinion to show how pandemic politics has touched all aspects of Americans’ lives—from the economy to race and immigration—and puts the country’s COVID-19 response in global perspective.

COVID-19 has killed more people than any war or public health crisis in American history, but the scale and grim human toll of the pandemic were not inevitable, the authors say. Through research findings, the authors assert that former President Donald Trump politicized COVID-19 and tied the pandemic to his political fate in an election year, choosing partisanship over public health. At a time when solidarity and bipartisan unity were sorely needed, the authors say, Americans came to see the pandemic in partisan terms, adopting behaviors and attitudes that continue to divide the nation.

Gadarian received the two awards from the American Political Science Association for her co-authored book “Anxious Politics: Democratic Citizenship in a Threatening World” (Cambridge University Press, 2015): The 2016 Robert E. Lane Award for best book in political psychology and the 2020 Doris Graber Award for best book in political communication in the past decade.

Her research focuses on American politics and public opinion, with a recent focus on the pandemic. In 2021, she was awarded a prestigious Carnegie Fellowship, the so-called “brainy award” that provides up to $200,000, to support her work on “Pandemic Politics.” She earned a Ph.D. from Princeton University in 2008.

Watch: Professor Shana Gadarian discusses "Pandemic Politics" with New America.

 

From the publisher:

COVID-19 has killed more people than any war or public health crisis in American history, but the scale and grim human toll of the pandemic were not inevitable. Pandemic Politics examines how Donald Trump politicized COVID-19, shedding new light on how his administration tied the pandemic to the president’s political fate in an election year and chose partisanship over public health, with disastrous consequences for all of us.

Health is not an inherently polarizing issue, but the Trump administration’s partisan response to COVID-19 led ordinary citizens to prioritize what was good for their “team” rather than what was good for their country. Democrats, in turn, viewed the crisis as evidence of Trump’s indifference to public well-being. At a time when solidarity and bipartisan unity were sorely needed, Americans came to see the pandemic in partisan terms, adopting behaviors and attitudes that continue to divide us today. This book draws on a wealth of new data on public opinion to show how pandemic politics has touched all aspects of our lives—from the economy to race and immigration—and puts America’s COVID-19 response in global perspective.

An in-depth account of a uniquely American tragedy, Pandemic Politics reveals how the politicization of the COVID-19 pandemic has profound and troubling implications for public health and the future of democracy itself.