EurekAlert! posts a report on the study in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research called “Getting Conservatives and Liberals to Agree on the COVID-19 Threat,” the main difference might be that conservatives respond better to a threat with personality:
Conservatives are generally more sensitive to threats that are relatively high in agency, propose Daniel Zane, assistant professor of marketing in Lehigh University’s College of Business, and co-author Luke Nowlan, assistant professor of marketing at KU Leuven, Belgium, in their study.
“In the context of the pandemic, you have these players — the policymakers, the American public, media organizations, your neighbors – that, at least relative to the unobservable virus, have more agency,” says Zane, “whereas this virus has less agency.”
[C]onservatives tend to see free will as the primary driver of outcomes in life, whereas liberals are more accepting of the idea that randomness plays a role. Compared to liberals, conservatives tend to attribute outcomes to purposeful actions.
To get greater buy-in about safety measures like wearing masks and economic shutdowns, Zane says that at the beginning of the pandemic, and even still now, instead of throwing around statistics, policymakers and health officials should have started talking about the virus in terms that gave it more agency.
“If they talked about the virus as having a motive, as being a palpable enemy that is seeking to attack humans,” says Zane, “maybe you get greater buy-in from the start on the part of conservatives. We also show in our research that liberals are not driven away by doing this, so it seems like a good move.”