Questions and answers about
the economy.

“Do governors lead or follow? timing of stay-at-home orders”

I use daily Google search data on the keyword ``Coronavirus" to track early resident interest in the novel Coronavirus pandemic. I ask whether governors are responding to heightened interest (i.e., following) or if their decisions are independent of citizen sentiment (i.e., leading). I show that Stay-at-Home orders are initiated sooner in states that saw early, heightened interest in the virus. This suggests that governors follow voters' opinions, preferences, and sentiments. Exploring potential heterogeneous effects, there is not a difference in the size of this effect between Republican and Democrat governors, nor is there a difference between those up for re-election in 2020 and those not. I do find that governor responsiveness is related to the state's economic freedom and the governor's approval rating just before the pandemic. In a novel environment without precedence, governors in the U.S. are setting policy in accord with voter interest.

Lead investigator:

Bryan C. McCannon


West Virginia University

Primary topic:

Attitudes, media & governance

Region of data collection:

North America

Country of data collection


Status of data collection


Type of data being collected:

Publicly available

Unit of real-time data collection


Start date


End date




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