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Citizens’ Perceptions of Government Responses to COVID-19 in Eight Countries

Updated: Dec 19, 2020

This study examines citizens’ perceptions of government responses in a multi-national context, by surveying residents in eight democratic nations affected by the pandemic: Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Spain, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Research Question

How do citizens evaluate government responses to COVID-19?

Research Objectives

(1) This study explores the effect of governance response (“democratic” vs. “autocratic”) to the COVID-19 crisis on individual assessments of effectiveness, equity, democracy, and overall comfort with and approval of the government response.

(2) This study examines the role of unambiguous objective performance information as well as information on the socio-economic gap in COVID-19 morbidity and mortality on citizens’ assessments of the government response.

(3) This study also investigates the role of objective performance information and data on the socio-economic gaps as moderators of the relationship between the “democratic” vs. “autocratic” government response model and citizens’ assessments.


This study conducted online randomized survey experiments that employ a factor 2*3*2 design.

(1) Two COVID-19 response models are: (a1) autocratic, and (a2) democratic.

(2) Three objective performance cues are: (b1) 2-stars performance ratings by international public health agencies, (b2) 3-stars performance ratings, and (b3) 4-stars performance ratings; and

(3) Two equity cues are: (c1) disproportionately large impact of COVID-19 on morbidity and mortality on low-income groups and (c2) no information about the disproportionate adverse impact on low-income groups.


Citizens prefer a “democratic” approach to the COVID-19 crisis.

(1) The findings show that citizens (1) prefer a “democratic” approach to the COVID-19 crisis to an “autocratic” approach;

(2) give more positive evaluations when the country receives positive ratings from a credible source; and

(3) give more negative evaluations when low-income groups are disproportionately affected by the adverse health effects of the pandemic.

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