Narrative Incongruence in Pandemic Local Governance: Mayors Perform Responsibility as Communities Demand Responsiveness

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Social psychological scholarship highlights the value of leadership for mounting effective responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet considerably less is known about whether leaders and their respective communities talk about the social crisis in the same way. Through a narrative congruence framework, we interrogate how public storylines of leaders and their communities align or misalign. Utilizing a mixed methods approach, we analyse Facebook posts and comments by Metro Manila mayors and their online followers during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. We uncover a narrative incongruence between (a) leaders who perform responsibility and (b) communities that demand responsiveness. Mayors prioritize equity to give the poor more relief aid, assure efficient cash disbursement, attribute higher infection rates to sufficient testing and blame noncompliant citizens for worsening outbreaks. On the other hand, communities seek equality in relief distribution, decry ambiguous cash disbursement, criticize testing failures and fault weak quarantine protocols for crisis escalation. We conclude with pathways for meaningful engagement between leaders and communities towards effective crisis response especially in the Global South.