Different Politics, Different Realities? A Case Study of Students’ Partisan Sensemaking About COVID-19

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The COVID-19 pandemic has been a source of conflict between liberals and conservatives in the U.S., with many politicized debates focusing on college students and universities. To understand this partisan conflict and how it might be mitigated, one useful approach is to examine how collective sensemaking about the virus and virus response, as reflected in language use, has differed between different political groups. Using semantic network analysis of a corpus of college students’ descriptions of their worries about COVID-19, we found that there were many similarities in sensemaking across the political spectrum, but also important differences between ideological groups. In particular, collective sensemaking for conservative students (more so than for liberal and moderate students) was organized around words related to anxiety and close personal relationships. These results have implications for addressing partisan intergroup conflict about COVID-19.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)320-343
Number of pages24
JournalNegotiation and Conflict Management Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Strategy and Management

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