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Paper reveals impact of COVID-19 on trust in governments

Trust in governments and democracy in Europe has been bolstered by the Covid-19 pandemic, a new paper has found.

Voting
Trust in democracy and democratic institutions has been bolstered.

Citizens living under lockdown in several Europeans nations have shown a renewed support for democratic institutions in their countries, as well as for their respective prime ministers or presidents.

The finding was revealed in a new paper, The Effect of COVID-19 Lockdowns on Political Support: Some Good News for Democracy? authored by Dr Damien Bol and Dr Marco Giani, from King’s College London, along with Dr Peter John Loewen, from the University of Toronto, and André Blais, from the University of Montreal.

Data was drawn from a survey of citizens in 15 Western European nations, between March 2 and April 3. Responses to the survey came both prior to and after the introduction of lockdown measures and gave the researchers a unique insight into how attitudes changed during the unprecedented process of social restriction.

Survey respondents were asked to rank their satisfaction with democracy, their trust in government, their political ideology, and their interest in politics, and also share their voting intention if a general election were to be called.

The surveys found that, in countries where a lockdown was introduced during the survey period, voting intention for the party of the prime minister or president increased by four per cent. Satisfaction with democracy and trust in government also increased by two per cent.

There was no change in the political ideology of the respondents, however. 

Our findings bring some good news. It seems that people understand that strict social containment is necessary, and reward governments that decide to enforce it, at least in the short term.– Damien Bol and Marco Giani

Dr Bol and Dr Giani said: “Our findings bring some good news. It seems that people understand that strict social containment is necessary, and reward governments that decide to enforce it, at least in the short term.

“Furthermore, our findings suggest that it has a positive spill-over effect on support for democracy and its institutions. Perhaps, this is due to the realization that governments are ready to make hard decisions which prioritize the health of vulnerable individuals over economic interests.

“Whether this allows sustained action against COVID-19 remains to be seen. Yet, it seems that this pandemic maybe offers the opportunity to reconcile part of the population with its political leaders and democratic institutions.”

In this story

Damien  Bol

Damien Bol

Senior Lecturer in Political Behaviour

Marco Giani

Marco Giani

Lecturer in Political Economy