Special Feature: Covid19 hurts trust in Politicians and governments

05/11/2020 AlphaGalileo Ltd
In collaboration with researchers from the Karolinska Institute and Södertörn University, VA (Vetenskap & Allmaenhet) has conducted a study of how people receive and interpret information about the ongoing pandemic. The survey was undertaken between 17 and 21 September 2020.

Six out of ten (62 percent) Swedes trust the perceive scientists in handling the corona pandemic. This is an increase of eight percentage points compared to when this was measured in August.

Confidence in researchers who comment on the coronavirus in the media has risen during the past month. In the latest survey, 85 percent say that they have fairly or very high confidence in researchers, compared with 80 percent in August.

At the same time, confidence in politicians has fallen to its lowest level (21 percent) since the survey began in March. For other professional groups, confidence remains at the same level as it was in August.

At the same time in the UK the Health Foundation's polling data, quoted by Sky News, based on a survey of 2,246 people in July, suggests that 56% think the government has not handled pandemic well, compared to 39% in May.

When asked about their views on the different measures the government has taken to tackle the pandemic, significantly fewer people polled feel the government's response is about right (40%) than in May (58%).

Dr Jennifer Dixon, the charity's chief executive, said: "Managing the pandemic is a complex and changing task, but this survey shows declining public confidence in how the government is handling the situation.”

Public confidence in the Government’s ability to deal with the coronavirus pandemic was badly affected by the news that unelected government official and adviser to the PM DominicCummings had seemingly broken lockdown rules, shows study by University College London (UCL).

There was a noticeable ‘Cummingseffect’ following a majorover the actions of the Prime Minister’s chief aide.

Boris Johnson has previously said he did not think “anybody in Number 10 has done anything to undermine our messaging”. But the research, published in The Lancet medical journal,shows a clear decrease in confidence starting on 22 May —when the story initially broke —which continued to fall quickly in the days that followed.

And it showed trust has not recovered in the weeks since then, with the study revealing the row also had an impact on people’s willingness to follow the rules and guidelines from the government.

But the fall in confidence in the UK government doesn't seemed to have been mirrored in the public's attitude towards the Scottish and Welsh administrations.

In both devolved nations, confidence has actually improved, with those saying they had no confidence in the Scottish response falling from 33 per cent in March to 27 per cent in September. The corresponding figure in Wales fell from 26 per cent to 25 per cent, shows a research by the UCL in October, quoted by “The Independent”.

In the USA the trust has been damaged by White House intrusions and the FDA’s (Federal Drug Agency) own mistakes. Earlier this year, the agency granted emergency authorisation to hydroxychloroquine, the malaria drug wrongly touted by Trump as a treatment for Covid-19, then reversed course when it became clear the medication could cause dangerous complications. In August, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn drew sharp criticism for inaccurately describing the benefits of convalescent plasma, statements for which he later apologised.

The White House has repeatedly meddled with decisions by career professionals at the FDA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other science-based agencies. Many of the American leading scientists, including some of the top doctors in the administration, are deeply disturbed by the collision of politics and science and bemoan its effects on public health, quoted by “The Washington Post”.

The Americans have long relied on an unseen army of government professionals — scientists, doctors, engineers, technicians, statisticians — to safeguard public safety amid a freewheeling market-based economy. But trust in government expertise has shown itself to be fragile.

An Axios-Ipsos poll in mid-September found more than 40 percent of Americans have either not very much trust in the FDA or none at all to look out for their interests.

For a change political trust has increased significantly in Australia in times of Coronavirus and compares strongly with Italy, the UK and the US.
For the first time in over a decade, Australians are exhibiting relatively high levels of political trust in federal government (from 29 to 54%), and the Australian Public Service (from 38 to 54%), shows latest research in Australia from October.

Although a significant majority of Australians (60%) expect COVID-19 to have a ‘high’ or ‘very high’ level of financial threat for them and their families, they are far less worried than their counterparts in Italy, the UK, and the US about the threat COVID-19 poses to the country (33%), to them personally (19%), or to their job or business (29%).

September research by Eurofund - EU Agency for Social Policies, shows that confidence in the EU increased during the coronavirus pandemic, but the same cannot be said for national governments.

In Bulgaria, confidence in the EU has risen from April to July from 4.0 to 4.5 on a ten-point scale. However, Bulgarians are giving very low score of the government in terms of its support during the crisis - from 3.3 in April to 2.9 in July. Only in Poland the trust in the government is lower than in Bulgaria (2.6-2.4), but on the other hand its trust in the EU is significantly higher (5.1-6.2).

The survey found that confidence in the European Union has increased significantly since April and is now higher than confidence in national governments. The study suggests that there is a strong link to financial assistance, saying that trust "is significantly higher among respondents who received financial support during the pandemic than among respondents whose request for support was rejected."

The largest increase in trust in the EU was registered in two of the countries most affected by the coronavirus; in Italy, where it rose from 4.1 to 5.2, and in Spain, where it rose from 4.0 to 5.1. The study's authors attribute this to the coronavirus recovery package agreed by EU leaders, saying that during the pandemic, people in those countries "may have been more inclined to seek support outside their national governments."

However, there is a significant decline in EU confidence in Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden - part of the so-called thrifty quartet, advocating a more conservative European response to the pandemic.

The survey also shows that although young people are less concerned about their financial situation, they are most affected by the constraints. They "feel more excluded from society" and "have not yet recovered from the mental damage caused by the pandemic," it said.

Only three countries have seen an increase in confidence in both the national government and the EU - Spain, France and Luxembourg.

In Russia about 62% of the population approves of the measures taken by the regional authorities to fight the pandemic and to solve the problems connected with the Covid-19. At the same time 66% of the population think the numbers of the cases have been manipulated by the government.

There is no reliable information about what the Russians think of the Kremlin’s strategy regarding the pandemic. In general the trust in the President Putin has fallen in October to its lowest level in years - only 30%. (Research by the private Russian polling company Levada Centre - https://www.levada.ru/2020/11/02/koronavirus-strahi-i-mery/)

In China researchers generally show trust in governments actions to stem Covid-19. The percentages vary between 75 and 80% depending on the questions asked. At the same time many observers warn that not all polls in China are reliable because of the understandable political problems.

For example The Diplomat (https://thediplomat.com/2020/05/covid-19-and-trust-in-the-chinese-government-what-do-we-actually-know) writes: It is tempting to consider a causal link between trust in the Chinese government and increased performance in containing the virus. Such a claim, however, is too general and may not be entirely trustworthy in the Chinese context. It is important to distinguish between levels of government, to consider the challenges of conducting survey research in China, and to think about how, and whether, we know the difference between voluntary and forced compliance.

… and we are not even discussing North Korea where authorities have taken extreme measures to fend off the coronavirus, including laying landmines in border areas with China, according to Seoul's National Intelligence Service.

The communist country’s emergency law stipulates officials who fail to control the disease could be sentenced to death.


Original article:
20/10/2020 Vetenskap & Allmaenhet

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