How good are Britons at following COVID rules, compared to other countries?

Matthew SmithLead data journalist
January 15, 2021, 12:00 PM UTC

While the overwhelming majority of Britons say they’ve been following the rules, there is reason to suspect many may be exaggerating…

A new YouGov survey of almost 19,000 people across 17 countries and regions shows that the overwhelming majority of Britons report that they have generally been following the national coronavirus rules.

More than nine in ten Britons (91%) say they have been obedient – the fourth highest of the countries and regions we surveyed.

Self-reported virtue may not be a very reliable measure, however, with many people perhaps deluding themselves into thinking they’ve been good. What might be a more accurate gauge of compliance is to ask people how well they think others have been following the rules.

Britons’ answer to that question tells a very different story. Just 56% say that most people in their local community have generally been following the rules, joint-tenth overall. This 35-point discrepancy between Britons’ own integrity and that of others is the joint-fifth largest of the study.

There are similarly large differences in all the European countries surveyed. In Spain, where people are most likely to say they have followed the rules (94%), this figure falls to 56% when it comes to the belief that friends and neighbours are doing so.

The biggest disparity is in Mexico. While 84% of Mexicans say they personally have been following their country’s coronavirus rules, just 30% say most people in their community are – a whopping 54-point gap.

It is in China that people are most likely to feel they live among rule-abiding neighbours. As many as 80% of Chinese people say that most people in their community have been complying with the rules, comparatively close to the 90% who say they have been doing so themselves.

The situation is similar in Singapore, where 94% say they have been keeping to the regulations and 79% say most people in their local area are doing the same.

See the full results here