DP17506 Backlash Against Expert Recommendations: Reactions to COVID-19 Advice in Latin America

Author(s): Facundo Albornoz-Crespo, Nicolas Bottan, Guillermo Cruces, Bridget Hoffmann, Maria Lombardi
Publication Date: July 2022
Keyword(s): COVID-19, experts, Public health, Trust
JEL(s): H4, I1, I3
Programme Areas: Public Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=17506

Health recommendations are key to tackling public health crises. We study the effect of attributing health recommendations to experts on agreement using a series of large survey experiments in twelve Latin American countries. We document a robust backlash against experts: agreement with recommendations is lower when these are phrased as originating from an expert. This backlash is only present for the recommendations that are specific to the pandemic and does not depend on the type of expert (academic, public or private sector). For individuals initially reporting low levels of trust in experts, agreement with all recommendations is lower when they are attributed to experts as compared to individuals who trust experts, indicating that anti-intellectualism plays a role in expert backlash but cannot fully explain the differential pattern of expert backlash that we observe across recommendations. We find suggestive evidence that individual traits and perceptions of social pressure could contribute to these backlash effects.