Covid-19, Government Performance, and Democracy: Survey Experimental Evidence from 12 Countries
75 Pages Posted: 29 Nov 2021 Last revised: 21 Feb 2022
Date Written: November 2021
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.
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