The Sincerest Form of Flattery: Nationalist Emulation during the COVID-19 Pandemic

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As COVID-19 rapidly spread across the globe, every government in the world has been forced to enact policies to slow the spread of the virus. While leaders often claim responses are based on the best available advice from scientists and public health experts, recent policy diffusion research suggests that countries are emulating the COVID-19 policies of their neighbors instead of responding to domestic conditions. Political and geographic considerations play a role in determining which countries imitate one another, but even among countries that are politically or geographically distant, nationalist regimes seem to favor certain approaches towards the pandemic. We investigate why this is the case by examining whether countries that embrace a nationalist ideology are more likely to emulate the COVID-19 policies of similarly nationalist regimes. We demonstrate that, even after controlling for domestic circumstances and linguistic, trade, geographic, and political connections, nationalist countries are emulating each other’s responses. These results are robust and shed light not only on new mechanisms of policy diffusion but also on the growing international cooperation of nationalist regimes and leaders.




Givens, J. W., & Mistur, E. (2021). The Sincerest Form of Flattery: Nationalist Emulation during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Journal of Chinese Political Science, 26(1), 213–234.

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