Experience of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Support for Safety-Net Expansion

Abstract

Did individuals’ experiences with the harms of the COVID-19 pandemic influence their attitudes towards safety-net programs? To assess this question, we combine rich information about county-level impacts and individual-level perceptions of the early pandemic, repeated measurements of attitudes towards safety-net expansion, and prepandemic measurements of related political attitudes. Individuals facing higher county-level impact or greater perceived risks are more likely to support long-term expansions to unemployment insurance and government-provided healthcare when surveyed in June 2020. These differences persist across time, with experiences in the early months of the pandemic remaining strongly predictive of attitudes towards safety-net expansion in early 2021.