Which political systems are good for handling a pandemic?

Eir NolsoeData Journalist
February 04, 2021, 5:11 PM UTC

Most people in 23 countries say democracy is good for tackling crises like coronavirus, but large numbers are also fond of letting experts or strong leaders take charge

The pandemic has prompted debates about whether authoritarian or democratic regimes are better at combatting COVID outbreaks. China’s Communist Party attributes its success at keeping cases down to the ‘superiority’ of its political system, despite many democracies having similar achievements.

Data from the YouGov-Cambridge Globalism study shows that a majority in all 23 countries surveyed say that democracy is a good approach for dealing with a pandemic. This sentiment is most common in Spain (86%), Brazil (86%) and Denmark (85%).

People in Saudi Arabia (56%), the US (62%) and Hungary (69%) are the least likely to agree.

The study also suggests that people in the surveyed countries have not had enough of experts. A majority of all except Germany say passing power over decision-making to experts rather than government is a good approach in a crisis. And even among Germans a greater number still consider it good (48%) rather than bad (35%).

People in Spain (86%), Nigeria (84%) and South Africa (79%) show the highest support for letting experts lead in a crisis. 

Britons are also fond of the idea at 68% (despite Conservative politician Michael Gove previously insisting the opposite is true).

After Germans, Saudi Arabians (59%) and people in the US (60%) are the least likely to see the merit in letting specialists call the shots.  

Some would prefer to see a powerful unelected leader or even the army rule

A majority in some countries in the survey also see the benefit of having “a strong leader who does not have to bother with the parliament and elections” govern in a crisis. Most people in India (73%), Indonesia (70%) and Nigeria (60%) are of this opinion.

The approach is also popular among Spaniards (55%), Italians (54%) and the French (51%).

Danes (24%), Swedes (29%) and Britons (31%) are the least convinced.

Most nations in the survey are sceptical of the army ruling the country to tackle a pandemic. The approach only has wide traction in Indonesia (63%), India (53%) and Egypt (49%).

See the full results here

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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