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COVID-19 Response Approval Driven by Politics?

The numbers suggest that political divisions are likely driving the public perception of government handling of Coronavirus.

The Pew Research Center recently reported that a median of 73% of people living in the world’s most advanced nations – including Japan, Sweden, Germany, Australia, Finland, and Spain – generally approve of their government’s handling of the Chinese Coronavirus. The United Kingdom and the United States were the two outliers among first-world nations, with slight majorities in each country (54% and 52%, respectively) believing that their governments have done a poor job in confronting the pandemic.

In the U.S., these numbers reflect the stark political polarization of this moment. While 76% of Republicans and independents who lean right believe President Trump has done a good job, just 25% of Democrats and independents who lean left think that he has ably dispatched his pandemic-era duties. This is a 51% fjord of opinion – which is no surprise to anyone who understands the truism that everything in an election year is about the election. Likewise, a 55% majority of Britons who vote conservatively gave Prime Minister Boris Johnson high marks for his handling of COVID-19, while only 26% on the left felt likewise.

Generally speaking, among all 14 countries included in the Pew study, those who expressed optimism about their nation’s economy also felt upbeat about the government’s handling of the pandemic. The converse was also true: those who felt their country’s economy was nothing to envy were unimpressed with their leaders’ response to the emergency.

As to the question of whether the pandemic has significantly changed respondent’s lives, 58% of those surveyed admitted that it had changed their lives “a great deal” or “a fair amount,” while 42% reported “not much changed” or “nothing changed at all.” Roughly 66% of respondents from Canada, Japan, Sweden, South Korea, the U.S., and the U.K. answered that their lives had changed a “fair amount,” since the outset of the outbreak, while 30% in South Korea, Sweden, the U.K., and the USA reported their lives had changed “a great deal.”

Notably, women in 12 of the 14 countries surveyed were more likely than men to say their lives have changed. In Sweden, America, and France, this gender gap crept into a double-digit distinction. Likely, these particular data points reflect the fact that women the world over do more unpaid work, such as household chores – cooking, cleaning, and shopping – than men. It is also fair to assume that mothers internationally carried the lion’s share of the duties surrounding providing at-home learning to their children during the lockdowns.

United or Divided by COVID-19?

On the question of whether the outbreak unified or divided the citizens of their nation, the United States stood alone as an outlier, with fully 77% of respondent’s reporting that divisions were more pronounced since the advent of the WHO’s official March 11th announcement that the Coronavirus constituted a global pandemic. This division was exacerbated by rioting, looting, arson, mayhem, and violence that metastasized out of peaceful protests in the wake of the death in May of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer.

In stark contrast, nearly 75% of Danish citizens said the country felt more unified. At the same time, almost half of all those who responded in Australia, South Korea, Canada, and Sweden reported greater national cohesion. In Germany, where substantial public gatherings in protest of COVID restrictions took place in recent weeks, those who see populism favorably were more likely to report national disunity than those who were in no way affiliated with populist parties or right-wing movements.

The Netherlands, Germany, and France notched very high levels of distrust in people generally, with respective percentages of 66, 64 and 63. In a time of sharp divisions, and with trust in the establishment media at an all-time low, The United States perhaps unsurprisingly tops the list with a whopping 78% of respondents expressing a lack of confidence in government, the fourth estate and their fellow citizens.

Pew determined that young people, who generally demonstrate greater trust in governing bodies like the WHO and the United Nations, also felt that more cooperation internationally would have helped stop the spread of SARS COv2. This may reflect an inclination among the youth to have more faith in globalism – an increasingly powerful and influential system they grew up with and see as part and parcel of the world order.


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