Coronavirus: Govts and experts

Pandemic well-handled, say most in advanced nations

But poll of 14 economies finds those in US, UK divided in rating their govt's virus response

In Denmark (above) - as well as in the Netherlands, Australia, France, Belgium and Germany - about half of the respondents surveyed by the Pew Research Centre said their lives have not changed much or at all since the onset of the coronavirus.
In Denmark (above) - as well as in the Netherlands, Australia, France, Belgium and Germany - about half of the respondents surveyed by the Pew Research Centre said their lives have not changed much or at all since the onset of the coronavirus.PHOTO: REUTERS

As governments across the world continue to battle the coronavirus, most people believe their countries have done well in stemming the outbreak, according to a survey of 14 advanced economies by think-tank Pew Research Centre.

Overall, a median of 73 per cent of respondents said their governments have done a good job in handling the coronavirus, which has infected more than 24 million people worldwide and resulted in over 825,000 deaths.

Just 27 per cent believed their countries have handled the pandemic poorly.

The data was obtained from a nationally representative survey of 14,276 adults from 14 advanced economies, conducted by phone from June 10 to Aug 3. The countries are the United States, Canada, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan and South Korea.

However, Pew Research found that people in the US and the UK were divided in their beliefs when it comes to rating their government's response to the pandemic. These two nations also have high levels of political polarisation on views of the government's handling of this crisis.

In the US, 76 per cent of Republicans and independents who lean towards the Republican Party said the government has done a good job, while just a quarter of Democrats and Democratic supporters agreed - a 51 percentage point difference.

In the UK, 55 per cent of right-leaning Britons gave a positive rating for the country's handling of the pandemic, led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative government, but just 26 per cent on the left thought the same.

The survey also found that a median of 58 per cent said the pandemic has changed their life, while 42 per cent reported not too much change or none at all.

About two-thirds or more in South Korea, Sweden, the US, the UK, Japan and Canada said their lives have changed at least a fair amount due to the pandemic, with at least three in 10 in South Korea, the US, Sweden and the UK saying that their lives have changed a great deal since the outbreak began.

In six countries - the Netherlands, Australia, France, Belgium, Germany and Denmark - about half of the respondents said their lives have not changed much or at all since the onset of the virus.

There is little consensus among those surveyed in the 14 countries on whether the pandemic has brought people together, with a median of 46 per cent saying their country is more united and 48 per cent thinking otherwise.

 
 

But in the US, where a patchwork of coronavirus-related restrictions reflects broad disagreement over the best path to economic recovery while mitigating the spread of the virus, roughly three-quarters said that the US is more divided than before. Only about two in 10 Americans said the country has become more united.

By contrast, nearly three-quarters in Denmark said there is more unity now, while more than half in Canada, Sweden, South Korea and Australia also said their countries have become more united.

As global Covid-19 cases show no signs of abating, an average of 59 per cent of respondents said infections could have been minimised through stronger international cooperation, while 36 per cent said such cooperation would have been futile.

The missed chances for cooperation are felt especially strongly in Europe, with more than half surveyed in Belgium, the UK, Spain, France, the Netherlands, Sweden and Italy saying more cooperation would have reduced coronavirus cases.

Some 58 per cent of American adults also said that if the US had cooperated with more countries, the number of infected Americans would have been lower.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 28, 2020, with the headline 'Pandemic well-handled, say most in advanced nations'. Print Edition | Subscribe