Support for Restricting Liberty for Safety: Evidence During the COVID-19 Pandemic from the United States, Japan, and Israel
40 Pages Posted: 4 May 2020
Date Written: May 2, 2020
Democratic governments around the world have taken dramatic steps to halt the spread of COVID-19. These steps have prevented new infections and deaths, but they have also entailed unprecedented restrictions on civil liberties. Navigating this tradeoff between security and liberty is particularly difficult for democracies because they need to maintain public support for their policies and are constrained by their constitutions. We administered surveys to nationally representative samples in three economically advanced democracies—the United States, Japan, and Israel—to assess the extent to which the public supports liberty restrictions designed to combat COVID-19. We found consistent and widespread support for policies restricting civil liberties across all three countries. We also experimentally manipulated information about (1) the constitutionality of these policies and (2) the infections they would prevent, finding evidence that respondents’ support for restrictions on civil liberties may depend more on their effectiveness than their legality.
Keywords: COVID-19, Civil Liberties, Constitutional Law, Public Opinion
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