Polarization of beliefs as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic: The case of Spain
Keywords: 
COVID-19 pandemic
Spain
Polarization of beliefs
Issue Date: 
2021
Publisher: 
Plos One
ISSN: 
1932-6203
Editorial note: 
This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Citation: 
Bernacer J, García-Manglano J, Camina E, Güell F (2021) Polarization of beliefs as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic: The case of Spain. PLoS ONE 16(7): e0254511
Abstract
Spain was, together with Italy, the first European country severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. After one month of strict lockdown and eight weeks of partial restrictions, Spanish residents are expected to have revised some of their beliefs. We conducted a survey one year before the pandemic, at its outbreak and during de-escalation (N = 1706). Despite the lockdown, most respondents tolerated being controlled by authorities, and acknowledged the importance of group necessities over individual rights. However, de-escalation resulted in a belief change towards the intrusiveness of authorities and the preeminence of individual rights. Besides, transcendental beliefs–God answering prayers and the existence of an afterlife–declined after the outbreak, but were strengthened in the de-escalation. Results were strongly influenced by political ideology: the proportion of left-sided voters who saw authorities as intrusive greatly decreased, and transcendental beliefs prevailed among right-sided voters. Our results point to a polarization of beliefs based on political ideology as a consequence of the pandemic.

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