One year on: global update on public attitudes to government handling of Covid

Joel Rogers de WaalAcademic Director, YouGov
November 19, 2021, 2:47 PM GMT+0

New findings from the annual YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project suggest that many around the world are growing generally more frustrated with the performance and restrictions of their government in tackling the pandemic. Yet support remains high for the more cautious policies of vaccine passports and travel quarantines.

Compared with a similar time last year, a number of countries show a marked drop in the percentage who think their government is doing well at handling the issue of Coronavirus, such as Germany (67% in 2020, 44% in 2021), Denmark (81%, 74%), Italy (58%, 48%), Greece (72%, 42%), Hungary (60%, 43%), Poland (43%, 35%), Australia (79%, 52%), Canada (70%, 55%) and Turkey (58%, 38%).

Interestingly, a few countries in the study also buck this trend, with approval levels staying roughly the same, such as Britain (39%, 41%) and Indonesia (62%, 60%), or increasing, such as Nigeria (51%, 60%) and South Africa (44%, 56%). The US also saw a very slight increase from 34% to 39% – but perhaps not the kind of jump that critics of Donald Trump might initially have expected.

As results further imply, there is also now substantial frustration with the pace of return to normal life. A number of countries have seen a decisive jump in the percentage who think their government is “putting too much priority on limiting the spread of the virus and not enough priority on allowing ordinary life to function”, such as France (19% in 2020, 30% in 2021), Germany (21%, 34%), Italy (17%, 25%), Poland (23%, 33%), Australia (13%, 27%), the United States (20%, 29%), Japan (12%, 24%), and Indonesia (11%, 33%).

Various countries show a similar shift in the number who think their government’s response to the virus has been too restrictive on people’s personal freedoms, including France (23%, 39%), Germany (27%, 42%), Hungary (30%, 44%), Britain (13%, 25%), Australia (17%, 34%), the US (29%, 36%), Turkey (30%, 41%) and Indonesia (22%, 44%).

Having said that, large portions of the public around the world are also in favour of certain, more cautious policies on controlling the pandemic. Majorities in nearly every case support the implementation of vaccine passports in their country as a requirement for attending large events or travelling to and from the country. Support is lower but still often substantial for compulsory passports to do a range of other activities, including travel on public transport, eat in restaurants, go to bars or cafes or do in-door exercise at gyms. Support tends to be lower for shopping in supermarkets or clothes shops. Across the twenty-six countries polled on this issue, Russia also stands out with consistently low support for passports in nearly all cases outside of international travel.

Results further show significant support for continuing with varying forms of quarantine for foreign arrivals. Respondents were shown a fixed list of countries and asked whether travellers from each should have to quarantine, with answer options including: (1) yes regardless of whether they have been fully vaccinated; (2) no if they have been fully vaccinated but yes if they have not; (3) no regardless of vaccination status; or (4) that people from that country should not be allowed to enter at all because of Coronavirus. For every place of potential origin, majorities in nearly every country chose one of the first two options in favour of some form of quarantine – whether regardless of, or contingent on, vaccination status. Notably, responses also tended to show only limited variation regarding country of origin. For instance, 36% of Britons said that people traveling to the UK from the US should have to quarantine regardless of their vaccination status, compared with 43% for travellers from Brazil, 41% for Russia, 45% for both India and China, 40% for Thailand, 32% for Spain and Greece, and 43% for South Africa.

We also find mixed results in terms of how the pandemic has affected public trust in various sources of information. Some countries show a discernible drop since last year in the percentage who trust their country’s leader to be an accurate source of information about Coronavirus, such as Denmark (70% in 2020, 59% in 2021), Italy (55%, 45%), Greece (42%, 28%), Hungary (37%, 25%), Australia (65%, 45%) Turkey (41%, 25%), India (72%, 64%) and Nigeria (37%, 23%). Some countries are more notable for their continuity in this respect, such as France (34%, 39%), Germany (48%, 45%), Sweden (42%, 47%), Spain (25%, 26%), Poland (24%, 20%) and Britain (35%, 32%). The United States stands out with a discernible increase in trust compared with last year when Donald Trump was still in office, yet hardly by a dramatic margin – from 34% to 43%. Meanwhile, trust in social media as a source of pandemic information remains consistently low, with small drops in a handful of countries such as Poland (30% in 2020, 25% in 2021) and the US (24%, 19%). Yet neither has this coincided with a boost in trust for more traditional media: beyond mostly modest fluctuations in either direction, overall trust in national broadsheet newspapers remains largely similar to a year ago.

Results:

Vaccine Passports

Government handling of Covid

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For more about the Globalism Project, see here.

Image: Getty

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YouGov-Cambridge Centre

The YouGov-Cambridge Centre for Public Opinion Research is a joint research centre run by YouGov and the Cambridge University POLIS Department, which promotes in-depth collaboration between pollsters and academic experts. Alongside research and events, the Centre contributes to teaching at the University and provides several postgraduate scholarships each year.
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