Polarization of beliefs as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic: The case of Spain
Spain was, together with Italy, the first European country severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. After one month of strict lockdown and eight weeks of partial restrictions, Spanish residents are expected to have revised some of their beliefs. We conducted a survey one year before the pandemic, at its outbreak and during de-escalation (N = 1706). Despite the lockdown, most respondents tolerated being controlled by authorities, and acknowledged the importance of group necessities over individual rights. However, de-escalation resulted in a belief change towards the intrusiveness of authorities and the preeminence of individual rights. Besides, transcendental beliefs-God answering prayers and the existence of an afterlife-declined after the outbreak, but were strengthened in the de-escalation. Results were strongly influenced by political ideology: the proportion of left-sided voters who saw authorities as intrusive greatly decreased, and transcendental beliefs prevailed among right-sided voters. Our results point to a polarization of beliefs based on political ideology as a consequence of the pandemic.