Pew Research recently published an interesting survey which documents how people rate their country’s COVID-19 response.
Countries’ approaches to combat the spread of the coronavirus have varied throughout Europe, North America, Australia, Japan and South Korea, but most publics in these regions believe their own country has done a good job of dealing with the outbreak, according to this new Pew Research Center survey of 14 advanced economies. Overall, a median of 73% across the nations say their country has done a good job of handling novel coronavirus, which has reached nearly every corner of the globe, infected more than 20 million people worldwide and resulted in the deaths of several hundred thousand.
But the pandemic has had a divisive effect on a sense of national unity in many of the countries surveyed: A median of 46% feel more national unity now than before the coronavirus outbreak, while 48% think divisions have grown. This includes 77% of Americans who say they are further divided than prior to the pandemic, while just 18% believe the country to be more united.
These are among the findings of a new Pew Research Center survey, conducted June 10 to Aug. 3, 2020, among 14,276 adults in 14 countries: the United States, Canada, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan and South Korea. The survey also finds that public attitudes toward their own country’s dealing with the coronavirus epidemic and national unity are linked to feelings of trust in others and economic confidence in their nation.
Across the 14 countries surveyed, a median of 73% say that their own country has done a good job dealing with the coronavirus outbreak. Just 27% believe their country has handled it poorly. However, there is some variation by country on this assessment.
About seven-in-ten or more give their nation’s coronavirus response a positive review in Denmark, Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, South Korea, Italy and Sweden. And more than half in Belgium, France, Japan and Spain share this sentiment.
In two countries – the United Kingdom and the United States – people are divided in their beliefs when it comes to rating their government’s performance responding to the coronavirus. These two nations also have high levels of political polarization on views of the government’s handling of this crisis. In the U.S., 76% of Republicans and independents who lean to the Republican Party say the government has done a good job, while just a quarter of Democrats and Democratic leaners agree, a 51 percentage point difference. A majority of right-leaning Britons (55%) give a positive rating to their country’s handling of the pandemic, led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government, but just 26% on the left hold the same opinion.
People in Spain, which is currently led by the left-leaning Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, are also split ideologically on assessing their government’s response to COVID-19, but in the opposite direction: 73% on the left are pleased with how their country has managed the outbreak while 40% on right are not, a 33-point difference. Those on the left are also more positive on their country’s response to the outbreak than those on the right by double digits in Italy (18 points more positive), Sweden (17 points) and South Korea (15 points).
Economies around the world have contracted due to the unprecedented nature of the coronavirus outbreak, and the U.S. Congressional Research Service reports that the global economy could grow between 3% and 6% less in 2020 compared with previous projections. These economic effects also relate to how people assess their own nation’s handling of the pandemic. Across all 14 nations included in the survey, those who think their current national economic situation is good are also more likely than those who believe the economy is bad to say their country has done a good job of dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.
This divergence is especially pronounced in the United States. Among those with a more optimistic view of the economy, 78% report that they approve of the way the U.S. government has dealt with the virus. But those who think the American economy is currently in poor shape are less than half as likely to give the government response a positive rating.
Each of the countries in the survey have suffered the effects of the coronavirus. The number of deaths vary in the 14 countries from about 100 to more than 100,000 when the survey was fielded, and some nations completely locked down while others like Sweden, Japan and the U.S. used different measures to attempt to stave off the virus. Across the 14 countries surveyed, a median of 58% say the pandemic has changed their life either a great deal or fair amount, while 42% report not too much change or none at all.
About two-thirds or more in South Korea, Sweden, the U.S., the UK, Japan and Canada say their lives have changed at least a fair amount due to the pandemic. (In all of these countries except the UK, the government never imposed a national-level lockdown.) And at least three-in-ten in South Korea, the U.S., Sweden and the UK say their lives have changed a great dealsince the outbreak began. Majorities of people in Spain and Italy – two early hotspots – have also noted changes in their lives because of the outbreak.
In six countries, about half or more say that their lives have not changed much or at all since the onset of the virus, including 54% of the Dutch, 53% of Australians, 53% of the French and 51% of Belgians. In each of these six nations except Australia, governments did put in place national-level lockdowns to counter the spread of COVID-19.
How people rate their country’s COVID-19 response is basically a reaction to where they live. People in Canada, Germany and South Korea approve of their response. Citizens in the US and Japan have concerns.