COVID-19, Government Performance, and Democracy: Survey Experimental Evidence from 12 Countries
Beyond its immediate impact on public health and the economy, the COVID-19 pandemic has put democracy under stress. While a common view is that people should blame the government rather than the political system for bad crisis management, an opposing view is that dissatisfaction with government performance may cause deeper dissatisfaction with democracy even in consolidated democratic regimes. We use a pre-registered survey and experiment covering 12 countries and 22,500 respondents to examine the impact of the pandemic on public attitudes about incumbent governments, the functioning of democracy and support for different types of regimes. To estimate causal effects, we leverage experimental treatments using an instrumental variable design. We find that dissatisfaction with the government, which is equally driven by economic and health considerations, decreases satisfaction with how democracy works. However, it does not translate into an embrace of non-democratic regime types.
Author contributions: Michael Becher, Nicolas Longuet Marx, and Vincent Pons did the conceptualization of the research question and of the experiment, the data curation, the formal analysis, and the writing of the paper; Sylvain Brouard, Martial Foucault, Vincenzo Galasso, Eric Kerrouche, Sandra León Alfonso, and Daniel Stegmueller contributed to designing the survey questionnaire and to writing. The anonymous preregistered analysis plan for the experiment is available from the University of Pennsylvania's Credibility Lab at https://aspredicted.org/blind.php?x=5p6xd9. The authors thank Thomas Van Casteren for excellent research assistance. For comments, they are especially grateful to Anne-Marie Therese Jeannet, Hanspeter Kriesi, Pavlos Vasilopoulos, and panelists at APSA 2021 and the IAST-Sciences Po workshop. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
I would like to report that I am the cofounder of a French company, eXplain
French data collection has received financial support from ANR (French Agency for Research) – REPEAT grant (ANR-20-COVI-0079) and from French
region Nouvelle Aquitaine.Sandra León Alfonso
This paper has had financial support from the Talento Senior Research Program of the Comunidad de Madrid (2019-00029-001).