Operationalizing social group identification as political partisanship, we examine followers' (i.e., US residents') affective experiences and behavioral responses during the initial COVID-19 outbreak in the United States (March to May 2020). In Study 1, we conducted content analyses on major news outlets' coverage of COVID-19 (N = 4319) to examine media polarization and how it plays a role in shaping followers' perceptions of the pandemic and leadership. News outlets trusted by Republicans portrayed US President Donald Trump as more effective, conveyed a stronger sense of certainty with less negative affective tone, and had a lower emphasis on COVID-19 prevention compared to outlets trusted by Democrats. We then conducted a field survey study (Study 2; N = 214) and found that Republicans perceived Trump as more effective, experienced higher positive affect, and engaged in less COVID-19 preventive behavior compared to Democrats. Using a longitudinal survey design in Study 3 (N = 251), we examined how emotional responses evolved in parallel with the pandemic and found further support for Study 2 findings. Collectively, our findings provide insight into the process of leadership from a social identity perspective during times of crisis, illustrating how social identity can inhibit mobilization of united efforts. The findings have implications for leadership of subgroup divides in different organizational and crisis contexts.


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Lau, V., Tse, D., Bligh, M., Hong, Y., Kakarika, M., Chan, H. & Chiu, C. 2022, 'Not "my" crisis: social identity and followers' crisis responses to COVID‐19', Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy. https://doi.org/10.1111/asap.12316

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Last updated: 24 August 2022
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