The Impact of Crisis Communication Sentiment on COVID-19 Social and Economic Outcomes: A Textual Analysis of US-state Governor Press Releases
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- Master Thesis 
The global spread of COVID-19 has caused unprecedented social and economic disruption the world over, forcing political leaders to act quickly and enact public policy that mitigated the impact of the virus. Despite early intervention, the United States quickly became an epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to Federalism in the United States public health system, the implementation and public communication of COVID-19 policy became the responsibility of state Governors. Since March of 2020, state Governors have communicated heterogeneously through press briefings that addressed the risks of the COVID-19 virus and their reactive public policy. However, with no centralized federal response, the severity of restrictions, enforcement, and language used to combat COVID-19 has differed substantially between states and with a wide degree of variation in crisis communication effectiveness. By examining Governor press briefings from March 2020 to December 2020, this research seeks to isolate the impact of Governor speech sentiment in COVID-19 press briefings on their respective state social and economic outcomes during the pandemic. In line with this initial inquiry, we investigate the role of Governor party affiliation in altering the sentiment of Governor communication. Our analysis aims to provide insight into the effect of language and party affiliation in crisis communication from political leaders. In doing so, we seek to enable the fine-tuning of future mitigation policies and crisis communications to reduce future crises' human and economic costs. Specifically, we find: (1) there is no statistically significant relationship between an increase in negative language sentiment and an increase in positive state social outcomes during the periods observed; (2) there is no statistically significant relationship between an increase in negative language sentiment and a rise in negative state economic outcomes during the periods observed; (3) there is no statistically significant relationship between the political affiliation of Governors and the degree of positive or negative sentiment used in COVID-19 press briefings during the periods observed. We conclude with a discussion of research limitations and directions for future research.