Vaccine Nationalism and Trust in Leaders
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Description: Global access to resources like vaccines is key for containing the spread of infectious diseases. However, wealthy countries often pursue nationalistic policies, stockpiling doses rather than redistributing them globally. One possible motivation behind vaccine nationalism is a belief among policymakers that citizens will mistrust leaders who prioritize global needs over domestic protection. In seven experiments (total N=4215), we demonstrate that such concerns are misplaced: nationally representative samples across multiple countries with large vaccine surpluses (Australia, Canada, U.K., and U.S.) trusted redistributive leaders more than nationalistic leaders — even the more nationalistic participants. This preference generalized across different diseases, and manifested in both self-reported and behavioral measures of trust. Professional civil servants however had the opposite intuition and predicted higher trust in nationalistic leaders, and a non-expert sample also failed to predict higher trust in redistributive leaders. We discuss how policymakers’ inaccurate intuitions might originate from overestimating others’ self-interest.