Europeans think UK has managed COVID-19 poorly… and Britons agree

Matthew SmithLead data journalist
June 01, 2020, 11:00 PM UTC

Everyone believes their country has done better than the US at least

As the cumulative number of coronavirus deaths continues to climb across the world it has become increasingly apparent which countries have prevailed and which have performed poorly against the disease.

Now a new YouGov Eurotrack survey has asked people in seven major European countries, as well as the United States, how they believe other nations have handled the crisis compared to their own.

Britain is seen, literally, as the sick man of Europe. Every other European country surveyed believes the UK’s coronavirus response to have been worse than their own – and by wide margins. This includes Spain (where 55% think Spain has done better than the UK compared to only 10% who think the opposite) and Italy (73% better, 7% worse), which have themselves been hit particularly hard by the crisis.

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Britons themselves tend to agree – there is no European country that Britons believe has handled the outbreak less well than the UK. They are most evenly split on Italy, with 23% of Britons believing the UK has done worse compared to 22% better, and they do consider themselves to have handled the crisis better than China, at 35% to 30%.

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Even Leave voters tend to concede that Britain’s European neighbours have done better – although overall they still think the UK has outperformed Italy and Spain (just). They also consistently take a more positive view of Britain’s management of the crisis relative to other European countries than Remain voters do.

Some opinions conflict with others

There is not always agreement between countries over who has done better, however. Italians believe themselves to have managed the pandemic better than the French and Spanish, a stance with which people in those two countries disagree.

By contrast, Germans and Danes point to one another insisting that it is in fact the other country that has done a better job tackling the contaion.

All European countries agree, however, that they have done worse than South Korea, but better than the USA.

Despite having by far the highest COVID death toll, Americans feel they have nevertheless performed better than Italy (by 33% to 20%), China (by 36% to 27%) and Spain (by 25% to 19%). This is particularly curious given that the Americans don’t think they have done as well as the UK (21% say Britain has done better vs 16% who say worse), despite the fact that the UK is likely to have experienced higher death rates than Italy, Spain and China.

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The results are partisan, with Democrats consistently more likely to say that other countries have done better than the US than Republicans, and by wide margins. There is one exception however: Sweden. The 37% of Democrats who believe the Scandinavian nation has managed the outbreak better than the US is almost matched by the 35% of Republicans who feel the same.

Sweden also tops the list of countries that Republicans believe has performed well compared to the US, which could be sign of Republican approval of Sweden’s decision not to institute a coronavirus lockdown.