Saving Lives or Saving the Economy? Support for the Incumbent during the COVID-19 Pandemic in Russia
The spread of COVID-19 sparked debates about whether incumbents should focus on saving lives or the economy. Politicians’ decisions in this dilemma could determine whether they remain in office. “Saving the economy” is predicted to affect re-election chances positively in economic voting theory. However, a public health crisis can shift the electorate’s preferences in favor of expanding healthcare support at the cost of the economy. We examine whether there is a trade-off between “saving lives” and “saving the economy” for the incumbent in receiving higher political support. Based on two experiments conducted in Russia, we measure if individuals are more likely to support, vote for, and extend the power of the incumbent based on their policies. Although both experimental factors encouraged support, the economy-driven policy had a larger effect on voting than the healthcare-driven one.