West Virginia Law Review

Document Type



In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, elected officials across the United States took efforts to slow the spread of the virus. Some of these efforts raised constitutional questions about the ability of the government to curtail rights during a crisis. This project makes use of an original dataset—letters to the editor submitted to 33 of the nation’s largest newspapers during the early months of the pandemic—to analyze public attitudes about these restrictions. Like much of the previous work regarding attitudes towards rights and liberties during a crisis, we find that these concerns are not front of mind to the public. However, our analysis suggests that this did not come from an ambivalence towards rights and liberties, and instead showed a level of nuance and sophistication among the public in how they conceptualized the tension between individual rights and public safety.



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