War Against COVID-19: How Is National Identification Linked With the Adoption of Disease-Preventive Behaviors in China and the United States?

Hoi Wing Chan, Xue Wang, Shi Jiang Zuo, Connie Pui Yee Chiu, Li Liu, Daphne W. Yiu, Ying yi Hong

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Fighting the COVID-19 pandemic requires large numbers of citizens to adopt disease-preventive practices. We contend that national identification can mobilize and motivate people to engage in preventive behaviors to protect the collective, which in return would heighten national identification further. To test these reciprocal links, we conducted studies in two countries with diverse national tactics toward curbing the pandemic: (1) a two-wave longitudinal survey in China (Study 1, N = 1200), where a national goal to fight COVID-19 was clearly set, and (2) a five-wave longitudinal survey in the United States (Study 2, N = 1001), where the national leader, President Trump, rejected the severity of COVID-19 in its early stage. Results revealed that national identification was associated with an increase in disease-preventive behaviors in both countries in general. However, higher national identification was associated with greater trust in Trump's administration among politically conservative American participants, which then was associated with slower adoption of preventive behaviors. The reciprocal effect of disease-preventive behaviors on national identification was observed only in China. Overall, our findings suggest that although national identification may serve as a protective factor in curbing the pandemic, this beneficial effect was reduced in some political contexts. Highlights Policymakers should note that national identity serves as a protective factor in curbing the COVID-19 pandemic. Narratives that highlight the collective agency of people would be useful in promoting disease-preventive actions as long as they are also endorsed by national leaders. National leaders should provide clear and consistent recommendations in promoting disease-preventive actions. Practitioners and policymakers should be aware of how the communication strategies they use would be affected by society’s political contexts. Mobilizing disease-preventive actions through a patriotic frame might not be useful when national leaders did not unambiguously promote disease prevention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)767-793
Number of pages27
JournalPolitical Psychology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • COVID-19
  • disease prevention
  • disease-preventive behavior
  • national discourse
  • national identification
  • pandemic
  • social identity approach

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science and International Relations


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