International attitudes to following coronavirus rules

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
January 28, 2021, 9:44 AM UTC

A YouGov survey of almost 19,000 people in 17 countries and regions shows where people have put the most effort into protecting themselves

Speaking about breaches of coronavirus rules earlier this month, British health secretary Matt Hancock highlighted that COVID rules “are not there as boundaries to be pushed, they are the limit to what people should be doing”.

But YouGov research has consistently shown that many Britons only want to do the bare minimum when it comes to the rules – and our research around the Christmas relaxation of restrictions showed that many would abandon anti-COVID measures the moment they were no longer enforced by rules.

Now a new international YouGov survey, conducted in 17 countries and regions, shows that 44% of Britons describe their approach to coronavirus rules as “I have followed the government rules as and when the government introduced them, but I have not acted earlier or gone further than the government says I need to”.

Britons are not the most likely to adopt a bare minimum approach to practicing protective measures, however. That honour goes to Italians, Singaporeans and Danes, at 56% in each country.

People in Hong Kong are the most likely to have be going above and beyond when it comes to protecting themselves and others from the disease. Six in ten people there (61%) said that “I have been taking protective measures before the government said I had to and/or going further than the government says I need to.”

Mexicans are the second most likely to say that they have gone further than their government says they have to, at 54%. This could be a legacy of the government’s slow response to the outbreak in the early stages, although it could also be an indication of Mexicans overstating their virtue. A recent YouGov study showed that, while 84% of Mexicans say they themselves have been following the rules, only 30% said the same of people in their neighbourhood – by far the largest discrepancy of any country.

About half of Britons (48%) claim to have been doing more than the government requires, as do 43% of Americans.

People in Poland and the US are the most likely to say they have paid no regard to the rules. One in six people in each country (17%) confessed that they “have only followed the government rules I want to or think make sense, but otherwise I have done what I wanted”.

See the full results here