Conservative Ideologies in Canada and the United States Predict Poorer Pandemic Outcomes

Main Article Content

Robert C. Sinclair R. Jeffrey Melton


Purpose: We conducted studies in two Western, individualistic countries, Canada and the United States, to assess the impact of political ideology on governmental policies (e.g., implementation of mask mandates) and individual conduct (e.g., getting vaccinated) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as infection and death rates. We argue that conservative political ideology is associated with poorer handling of COVID-19.

Methods (Study 1): The relationship between whether or not a conservative majority held power in Canadian provinces and territories and COVID-19 infection and death rates in nursing homes and the general population, business insolvencies, implementation of mask mandates or travel bans, allowed religious gathering sizes, anti-mask and anti-lockdown protests, and vaccination rates was examined.

Results (Study 1): Infection and death rates in conservative provinces were higher and rose faster. Conservative provinces had higher infection and death rates in nursing homes, had more business insolvencies, took longer to introduce mask mandates and dropped them sooner, allowed larger religious gatherings, and took longer to introduce interprovincial travel bans (or had none). Residents of conservative provinces were more likely to engage in anti-mask and anti-lockdown protests, and less likely to have been vaccinated.

Methods (Study 2): Study 2 examined similar variables in the United States as a function of the percentage of states’ votes for Donald Trump (the more conservative candidate) in the 2020 U.S. Presidential election.

Results (Study 2): Infection and death rates were higher in conservative states (those with a higher percentage of Trump voters) than more liberal states (those with a lower percentage of Trump voters). Conservative states also were less likely to mandate masks or did so later, were less likely to close businesses or issue stay at home orders, reopened schools for in-person learning sooner, and had lower vaccination rates; all of these differences were related to infection and death rates.

Conclusion: Our data suggest that conservative governments have had poorer responses to the pandemic than more liberal governments, and conservative individuals have lower vaccination rates than their more liberal counterparts, resulting in higher infection and death rates. Public health measures such as vaccinations and masking are essential for controlling infectious diseases, but their success depends fundamentally on the social behavior of governments and individuals.

Article Details

How to Cite
SINCLAIR, Robert C.; MELTON, R. Jeffrey. Conservative Ideologies in Canada and the United States Predict Poorer Pandemic Outcomes. Medical Research Archives, [S.l.], v. 11, n. 3, mar. 2023. ISSN 2375-1924. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 20 apr. 2024. doi:
Research Articles


1Melton RJ, Sinclair RC. Culture and COVID-19: A Global Analysis of the Successes of Collectivist Countries and the Failures of Individualistic Countries. ResearchGate. 10.13140/RG.2.2.23727.20643. Published February 5, 2023.
2Hofstede GH. Culture's Consequences, International Differences in Work-Related Values. Beverly Hills: Sage; 1984.
3Jonas E, Graupmann V, Kayser DN, Zanna M, Traut-Mattausch E, Frey D. Culture, self, and the emergence of reactance: Is there a “universal” freedom? Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 2009;45(5):1068-1080. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2009.06.005
4Brehm JW. A Theory of Psychological Reactance. New York: Academic Press; 1966.
5Steindl C, Jonas E, Sittenthaler S, Traut-Mattausch E, Greenberg J. Understanding psychological reactance. Zeitschrift für Psychologie. 2015;223(4):205-214. doi:10.1027/2151-2604/a000222
6Tomasky M. There's a word for why we wear masks, and Liberals should say it. The New York Times. Published October 17, 2020. Accessed February 5, 2023.
7Thórisdóttir H, Jost JT. Motivated closed-mindedness mediates the effect of threat on political conservatism. Political Psychology. 2011;32(5):785-811. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9221.2011.00840.x
8Jost JT, Napier JL, Thorisdottir H, Gosling SD, Palfai TP, Ostafin B. Are needs to manage uncertainty and threat associated with political conservatism or ideological extremity? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 2007;33(7):989-1007. doi:10.1177/0146167207301028
9Thorisdottir H, Jost JT, Liviatan I, Shrout PE. Psychological needs and values underlying left-right political orientation: Cross-national evidence from Eastern and Western Europe. Public Opinion Quarterly. 2007;71(2):175-203. doi:10.1093/poq/nfm008
10Montpetit J, MacFarlane J. Latest anti-mask protest in Montreal draws large crowds who say threat of covid-19 overstated | CBC news. CBCnews. Published September 13, 2020. Accessed February 5, 2023.
11van der Linden C. Canada is not immune to the politics of coronavirus masks. The Conversation. Published December 22, 2022. Accessed February 5, 2023.
12Charlebois F. Quebec government documents expose its disastrous mishandling of initial pandemic response. World Socialist Web Site. Accessed February 5, 2023.
13Mallick H. Are businesses worth more than human lives? in Doug Ford's Ontario, the answer is yes. Published November 14, 2020. Accessed February 5, 2023.
14Government of Canada SC. Statistics Canada: Canada's National Statistical Agency. Statistics Canada: Canada's national statistical agency. Published December 31, 2022. Accessed February 6, 2023.
15Canada PHAof. Covid-19 epidemiology update: Key updates. Published January 26, 2023. Accessed February 5, 2023.
16 Compare countries. Hofstede Insights. Published June 22, 2021. Accessed February 12, 2023.
17Leip D. Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections. Accessed February 6, 2023.
18Coronavirus cases: Worldometer. Accessed February 5, 2023.
19 Face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. Wikipedia. Published February 5, 2023. Accessed February 6, 2023.
20Staff NBCW. DC changes mask guidance consistent with new CDC guidelines. NBC4 Washington. Published May 17, 2021. Accessed February 6, 2023.
21Staff NBCW. DC Reinstates Indoor Mask Mandate. NBC4 Washington. Published December 21, 2021. Accessed February 6, 2023.
22Staff NBCW. DC to require masks indoors amid Covid Surge. NBC4 Washington. Published July 30, 2021. Accessed February 6, 2023.
23Sullivan P. Washington, DC, to end vaccine, Mask Mandates. The Hill. Published February 14, 2022. Accessed February 6, 2023.
24Swalec A, Segraves M. DC now requires face masks when leaving home, with few exceptions. NBC4 Washington. Published July 22, 2020. Accessed February 6, 2023.
25State-by-state school mask mandates. The National Center for Disability, Equity, and Intersectionality. Published April 6, 2022. Accessed February 6, 2023.
26Wayback Machine. Accessed February 6, 2023.
27 States that issued lockdown and stay-at-home orders in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020. Ballotpedia.,_2020. Accessed February 6, 2023.
28U.S. Covid Risk & Vaccine tracker. Covid Act Now. Accessed February 6, 2023.
29Bragman W, Kotch A. How the Koch network hijacked the war on COVID. The Lever. Published January 7, 2022. Accessed February 6, 2023.
30Mier B, Norton B. From Canada to Brazil, rich right-wing elites are astroturfing 'trucker' protests. Geopolitical Economy Report. Published October 8, 2022. Accessed February 12, 2023.
31Stanley-Becker I. Koch-backed group fuels opposition to school mask mandates, leaked letter shows. The Washington Post. Published October 2, 2021. Accessed February 13, 2023.
32Posted on January 27 2022. The 'freedom convoy' is nothing but a vehicle for the far right. Canadian Anti-Hate Network. Published February 9, 2023. Accessed February 12, 2023.
33Janis IL. Victims of Groupthink: A Psychological Study of Foreign-Policy Decisions and Fiascoes. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin; 1972.
34Kelly M. Largest COVID-19 contact tracing study to date finds children key to spread, evidence of superspreaders. Princeton University. Published September 30, 2020. Accessed February 13, 2023.
35Asch SE. Opinions and social pressure. Scientific American. 1955;193(5):31-35. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican1155-31
36Woodcock A, Schultz PW. The role of conformity in mask-wearing during COVID-19. PLOS ONE. 2021;16(12). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0261321
37Sherif M. A study of some social factors in perception. Archives of Psychology (Columbia University). 1935;187(60).
38 Bahns AJ, Crandall CS, Gillath O, Preacher KJ. Similarity in relationships as niche construction: Choice, stability, and influence within dyads in a free choice environment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2017;112(2):329-355. doi:10.1037/pspp0000088
39Tversky A, Kahneman D. Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases. Science. 1974;185(4157):1124-1131. doi:10.1126/science.185.4157.1124
40Hasher L, Goldstein D, Toppino T. Frequency and the conference of referential validity. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior. 1977;16(1):107-112. doi:10.1016/s0022-5371(77)80012-1
41 Cowger TL, Murray EJ, Clarke J, et al. Lifting universal masking in schools—COVID-19 incidence among students and staff. New England Journal of Medicine. 2022;387(21):1935-1946. doi:10.1056/nejmoa2211029
42 Nazarenko Y. Air filtration and severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Epidemiology and Health. 2020. doi:10.4178/epih.e2020049
43Elsaid AM, Ahmed MS. Indoor Air Quality Strategies for air-conditioning and ventilation systems with the spread of the Global Coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic: Improvements and recommendations. Environmental Research. 2021;199:111314. doi:10.1016/j.envres.2021.111314
44Buonanno M, Welch D, Shuryak I, Brenner DJ. Far-UVC Light (222 nm) efficiently and safely inactivates airborne human coronaviruses. Scientific Reports. 2020;10(1). doi:10.1038/s41598-020-67211-2