Politics, Parks, and Pandemic: A Research Note


  • Caleb J. Scruggs Old Dominion University
  • Chris A. B. Zajchowski Old Dominion University
  • Jennifer Huggins Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation
  • Alexander Burns Old Dominion University




The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the importance of parks as critical infrastructure for societal well-being; however, for much of the pandemic, the risk for disease exposure and transmission in these spaces was unclear. Public health messaging by parks continues to attempt to influence health-promoting behaviors, but the impact of advisories may vary due to the message source. In fall 2020, we surveyed park visitors in Virginia, U.S. across political affiliations to understand decision-making factors influencing visitation. Results indicate many similarities in decision-making factors across political affiliations, such as the perceived importance of health benefits derived from outdoor recreation. Significant differences in the perceived importance between message sources (i.e., Trump Administration) (ηp 2 = .104) and risk perceptions related to COVID-19 (ηp 2 = .228) across political affiliations were evident. These findings demonstrate the importance of attending to political affiliations when crafting messaging strategies, not limited to the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Author Biography

Chris A. B. Zajchowski, Old Dominion University

Assistant Professor of Park, Recreation, and Tourism Studies






Research Notes