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A Rare Moment of Cross-Partisan Consensus: Elite and Public Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic in Canada

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed nearly unprecedented pressure on policymakers and citizens alike. Effectively containing the pandemic requires a societal consensus. However, a long line of research in political science has told us that polarization tends to occur on highly salient topics because partisans “follow the leader.” Elite consensus is thus essential to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada. We examine the degree of partisan consensus that exists in Canada at the level of political elites and the mass public. At the level of political elites, we quantitatively and qualitatively analyze MP Twitter behaviour and show a massive increase in attention to COVID-19 and find no evidence of any MPs from any party downplaying the pandemic or spreading misinformation. At the level of the mass public, we find no association between Conservative Party vote share and Google search interest in the coronavirus, while survey data show that individual-level partisan differences are small and disappear when controlling for demographics and left-right ideology. Elite and public response to the COVID-19 pandemic can be characterized as a cross-partisan consensus.
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