This research study determined that compliance with social distancing is associated with individuals’ belief in climate change and suggests that messaging about COVID-19 risk must consider attitudes towards science to be more effective.
Beliefs about human causes of climate change significantly affected social distancing patterns after shelter-in-place policies were enacted. Using cell phone data, researchers were able to determine greater rates of non-compliance with social distancing recommendations in counties with a higher proportion of climate change skeptics. When scientific skepticism was high, similar patterns of social distancing non-compliance was evident regardless of political party leanings. Adapting science communication to account for specific audience’s bias and countering disinformation will help reduce the chances that preventive messages will be rejected.