COVID-19 global outlook: Second waves of coronavirus hit government approval

December 15, 2020, 4:11 PM GMT+0

Data from YouGov and Imperial College London’s COVID-19 Monitor reveals that while outlook in the APC region got better towards the end of 2020, outlook in Euerope and North America is deteriorating

Over the course of the coronavirus crisis, YouGov and Imperial College London have been collaborating with global healthcare and academic institutions to provide data that can inform the international response to the pandemic.

Our COVID-19 Monitor covers 29 countries and four continents and has collected over 42 million weekly and monthly datapoints from March 2020 onwards – encompassing everything from government approval, through pandemic perception, to compliance with public health policies.

As the pandemic has progressed, the data from this tracker has revealed some widening gaps between regions in terms of general outlook, government approval, and economic concerns.

Public perception: Situation in APAC is improving – but Europe and North America have gone from bad to worse

European outlook data (which determines whether the public believe their national situation is getting better or not) reveals that the proportion of people who believe that their national situation is improving has been in steady decline since May 2020.

There have been temporary interruptions to this downward trend in some countries. Germany, for instance, saw a period of improvement in May only for fresh outbreaks to cause a sharp downturn in public perception in June.

The UK’s national outlook also rose from 39% to 48% during August – possibly due to lockdown-easing measures such as the government’s “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme, which offered a discount on sit-down meals at restaurants across August. With the arrival of a second wave of the virus and the reintroduction of restrictions, however, the overall outlook deteriorated in the eyes of the UK public – to the point where fewer than 10% thought the situation was getting better as of November.

North American outlook has not fallen quite as far during the pandemic, but it is nonetheless lower than it has been at any other point during our study. Canada has seen a particularly steep drop: between August and November, the proportion of Canadians who believed their situation was improving fell from 61% to 17%.

APAC stands alone as the only region where national perceptions have generally remained high or steadily improved since June – although the level of improvement varies between countries. It is also the only region in our study where government approval has improved following the arrival of new waves of COVID-19, and the region where trust in government communications is highest.

Over the course of the pandemic so far, trust in institutions has been variable. As of November, fewer than half of people in the Americas believe what the government is saying. While governments are more trusted than the media, they lag behind healthcare institutions. Trust in these organisations has not dipped below eight out of ten members of the public at any point in any region in our study.

The secondary effects of COVID-19: May – June 2020

Beyond government perceptions, data from our study shows that the global public was more worried about the lasting impact on society than any other effect of the COVID-19 pandemic between May and June.

In fact, people are more likely to be worried that the virus will reshape society – or that their friends and family will catch it – than they are about contracting it themselves. The APAC region is the only one where a majority of the public are concerned about becoming personally unwell (which may be a by-product of earlier epidemics such as SARS and MERS).

It’s also the region where people are most likely to be worried about their children’s education, losing their jobs, and their personal finances.

Digging deeper into the economic side of the pandemic reveals further key differences in public perception. Americans and Europeans are most likely to be worried about the impact on local businesses, while those living in the APAC region are more troubled by the prospect of a global recession.

In every category except local businesses, the general public in APAC are more likely to be worried. These figures did not dramatically change between the beginning of May and the end of June.

Where businesses themselves are concerned, fewer and fewer reported declining activity between May and June – but job losses remained consistent. Over this period, Asia and the US were relatively aligned in terms of both business activity and job losses. Europe has been consistently less impacted by the COVID-19 crisis across both metrics.

YouGov's COVID-19 Public Monitor can be found here

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