Trust in governments during the COVID-19 pandemic : attributing responsibility and revealing the determinants

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Title: Trust in governments during the COVID-19 pandemic : attributing responsibility and revealing the determinants
Author: Caras, Valeria Stefania
Other contributor: Helsingin yliopisto, Valtiotieteellinen tiedekunta
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences
Helsingfors universitet, Statsvetenskapliga fakulteten
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2021
Language: eng
Thesis level: master's thesis
Degree program: Euroopan ja pohjoismaiden tutkimuksen maisteriohjelma (European and Nordic Studies)
Master's Programme in European and Nordic Studies
Magisterprogrammet i Europa- och Nordenstudier
Specialisation: Social Sciences Study Track
Social Sciences Study Track
Social Sciences Study Track
Abstract: This research aims to reveal factors that impact the formation of trust in governments during the COVID-19 pandemic from a comparative cross-EU perspective. The formation of trust in pandemic times is ambiguous because national executives are supposed to combat the virus and can be both rewarded and punished for their actions as well as for the economic consequences of the lockdowns. Theoretically, the thesis fills the gap between the economic voting bulk of literature and research on trust formation in crisis times. The study is based on the “Living, working and COVID-19 dataset” survey conducted by Eurofound agency in spring and summer 2020. The results of the multilevel regression analysis contribute to the field with the significant impact of the clarity of governmental responsibility and losing a job interaction on trust. The applied method allows combining country-level and individual-level data, revealing a higher variance among respondents than EU member states. The interaction indicates that most citizens appreciate cohesive governments in crisis times, which contradicts economic voting literature’s argument that trust is lower in less polarized systems where people have a clearer understanding of assigning blame for policies. However, the respondents who lost the job permanently when the pandemic escalated blame united governments establishing a better link between personal welfare and governmental action. The discrepancy between unemployed and employed is more minor in more polarized and less cohesive systems, which blur responsibility. In general, such factors as losing a job during the pandemic, either permanently or temporarily, feeling job insecurity, and expecting personal finances to worsen - negatively influence the trust in governments. These findings illustrate the significance of political factors as government composition and economic indicators as unemployment and subjective feelings of economic well-being in trust formation. Compared to the theoretical assumptions in regular times, the trust variations during the concrete situation of the pandemic’s outbreak are different since people tend to value more united governments able to respond to the crisis fast.
Subject: clarity of responsibility
COVID-19 pandemic
trust in governments
multilevel analysis

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