Trust in governments during the COVID-19 pandemic

Our third ElMaRB seminar this spring took place on the 14th of April. Our project intern Valeria Caras gave a talk “Trust in governments during the COVID-19 pandemic: attributing responsibility and revealing the determinants”, which is based on her Master’s thesis. Maria Bäck, University Lecturer at the University of Helsinki, Political Science, acted as the discussant. Below you can find the abstract of the talk and the recording with subtitles:

I aim to explore factors that impact the formation of trust in governments during the Corona pandemic from a comparative cross-EU perspective. I apply multilevel regression analysis on survey data and find a significant impact of clarity of governmental responsibility on trust. The majority of citizens appreciate less polarized and more cohesive cabinets in crisis times. Respondents’ welfare emerges to be another critical factor since people who lost their jobs during the COVID-19 and experience financial difficulties tend to distrust the incumbents. However, the difference between such groups and people who kept their market positions is more substantial in higher governmental responsibility systems. Clarity enhances economic polarization: respondents who did not suffer or suffer marginally from the pandemic’s consequences trust more in united governments while people whose finances worsened since the pandemic’ onset distrust more in such systems. The finding indicates that the unemployed blame less polarized governments because they can establish a better link between personal welfare and governmental action when cabinets are united. The study also compares trust levels across EU member states, revealing Nordic countries as leaders in trust and Central and Eastern Europe as the forerunners in distrust. The pandemic’s economic consequences have intensified trust deterioration, especially in Poland and Hungary, where governments are mostly distrusted and punished for the economy. The current crisis might strengthen the ‘hyper accountability phenomena – a severe punishment by the population for an economic downturn present in the CEE region since the transition.

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