The Relationship Between Follower Affect for President Trump and the Adoption of COVID-19 Personal Protective Behaviors

Sherry E. Moss, Wake Forest School of Business
Stacey R. Kessler, Kennesaw State University
Mark J. Martinko, Florida State University
Jeremy D. Mackey, Raymond J. Harbert College of Business


In the current series of studies, we draw upon implicit leadership theories, social learning theory, and research on decision making to investigate whether affect toward President Trump explains U.S. residents’ evaluations of his leadership during the COVID-19 crisis, as well as the likelihood that that residents engage in personal protective behaviors. A meta-analysis using 17 nationally representative datasets with a total of 26,876 participants indicated that participants who approve of President Trump tend to approve of his leadership regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and were less likely to engage in personal protective behavior (PPBs; i.e., hand washing, wearing a mask or other face covering in public, and social distancing). On the other hand, those disapproving of President Trump also tended to disapprove of his leadership during the COVID-19 crisis and were more likely to engage in PPBs. In a second study, using an established measure of leader affect (leader affect questionnaire) and controlling for political party, we replicated and extended these results by demonstrating that expending cognitive effort toward understanding the COVID-19 crisis attenuated the relationship between affect toward President Trump and (1) approval of his leadership during the COVID-19 crisis and (2) engagement in some, but not all, PPBs.