National identity predicts support for public health measures during coronavirus pandemic

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An analysis of attitudes across 67 countries shows that identification with one nation is associated with greater engagement with public health behaviors. According to the research, national identities play a significant and positive role in battling a global pandemic.

Jay Van Bavel is a professor of psychology at New York University and one of the paper's authors. National identity can be useful in addressing the current Pandemic and may serve as a public health resource in the future, according to a new study.

The political psychology lab at the University of Kent sees the positive effects for those who feel genuinely proud and close to their nation, rather than those who are mostly concerned about how others see their country.

National Identity as measured reflects what it means to be part of a nation for each person, according to a paper by the director of the Social and Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory at Brazil's Mackenzie Presbyterian University. This can be seen in countries like New Zealand, where the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardem, has emphasized each one's role as a member of a larger group that is the country itself.

The international team of more than 200 researchers, who also come from Australia, Germany, and the United Kingdom, recognized the productive role national.

The impact of COVID-19 has been global, policies and calls for practices to address it have largely been implemented by individual nations, raising the question of the role national identity plays in responding to country-based public health measures.

The researchers wanted to separate national identity from national narcissism, which is a form of social identity that involves the belief that one's group is better than the others. National identification and national narcissism are related because they both involve a positive evaluation of one's nation. They are linked to very different outcomes. National identification is negatively associated with prejudice against out groups, but positively with national narcissism.

In their study, the researchers asked the extent to which participants reported adopting public health behaviors and endorsed public policy measures, such as closing bars and restaurants. They asked about the political ideology of the respondents, as well as questions about national identification and national narcissism.

Respondents who reported identifying more strongly with their nation consistently reported greater engagement in public health behaviors and support for public health policies.

Right-wing political ideology had a positive correlation with national identification and national narcissism, but very weak correlations with support for public health measures. The researchers say that political ideology may be unimportant for predicting public health behavior outside the United States. Right-wing political beliefs were associated with less support for public health government policies compared to left-wing political beliefs.

It is important to note that the relationship between national identity and public health support was different from national narcissism. National narcissism was associated with self-reported physical hygiene and support for COVID-19 preventative policies. These effects were smaller than those for national identity.

The team conducted a second international study to better understand if self- reporting reflected actions taken. The World Values Survey, which measures values and beliefs over time and across countries, is one of the two publicly available datasets they used.

The researchers created an index of national identification using two items from the World Value Survey and an index of physical mobility by averaging community movement across all available places.

They looked at whether countries with higher average national identification predicted a stronger reduction in mobility after the COVID-19 pandemic spread around the world.

According to the results from the initial survey, national identification was associated with reduced spatial mobility, suggesting that those with a strong national identity were following public health guidelines by reducing their movements, thereby reducing physical interactions with others.

The data may be found on the Open Science Framework page.

More information: National identity predicts public health support during a global pandemic, Nature Communications (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-27668-9 Journal information: Nature Communications Citation: National identity predicts support for public health measures during coronavirus pandemic (2022, January 26) retrieved 26 January 2022 from This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.