R-0 may be the most important scientific term you’ve never heard of when it comes to stopping the coronavirus pandemic.
United by a common language and high levels of political polarization, the USA and United Kingdom stand out in a new survey as two nations whose populations are split over how well their governments handled the COVID-19 pandemic.
Across 14 mostly European countries, people were canvassed for attitudes about whether their leaders did a good job responding to the coronavirus: 52% of Americans and 54% of Britons have a negative or “bad” impression, according to the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan “fact tank” that carried out the survey of advanced economies.
This compares with a median of about 7-in-10 – 73% – who give their nation’s coronavirus response a positive or “good” review in Denmark, Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, South Korea, Italy and Sweden. More than half of those surveyed in Belgium, France, Japan and Spain look favorably on the job their government has done responding to the pandemic, the surveyed says.
The country with the most positive assessment is Denmark, where 95% say authorities have done a “good” job.
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen adjusts her face mask as she arrives for a European Union summit on a coronavirus recovery package at the European Council building in Brussels on July 19. (Photo: AFP via Getty Images)
The Scandinavian country rushed to shut its borders and imposed a strict coronavirus lockdown in mid-March almost before any other European country. It was the first nation in the region to reopen its schools and commercial sectors. An academic paper published by researchers at Denmark’s Aarhus University partly attributed the country’s effective management of the coronavirus crisis to its free and flexible health care system, a high level of trust in authorities and a lack of conspiracy theories or widespread panic from the public about the government’s handling of the outbreak.
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According to John Hopkins University’s COVID-19 dashboard, 624 people in Denmark have died and more than 17,000 have been infected with the coronavirus as of Thursday. In the USA, almost 180,000 people have died and more than 5.8 million people – a figure roughly equivalent to Denmark’s entire population – have been infected.
Twenty-seven percent of those surveyed in Denmark say their lives changed a “great deal or fair amount” as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, compared with 81% in South Korea, the highest ranker in this category. In the USA, 67% say their lives changed a “great deal or fair amount.”
Germany and Canada, both at 88%, followed Denmark as places where populations rate highly the responses of their governments to the pandemic.
The Associated Press asked children across the globe to talk about their lives — and their future — amid the coronavirus pandemic. They expressed themselves in drawings, song, dance and even LEGO. AP Video produced by Martha Irvine. (May 27)
Huge gap between Republicans, Democrats on COVID-19 response
At 52% and 54%, the USA and United Kingdom received the lowest scores.
The survey notes that both nations have high levels of political polarization when it comes to how the COVID-19 response is rated.
“In the United States, 76% of Republicans and independents who lean to the Republican Party say the government has done a good job, while just a quarter of Democrats and Democratic leaners agree, a 51-percentage-point difference,” the study’s authors say. Similarly, “a majority of right-leaning Britons (55%) give a positive rating to their country’s handling of the pandemic, led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government, but just 26% on the left hold the same opinion.”
A study published in the American Political Science Review, a research journal, says that political polarization in the USA is so entrenched that only a tiny fraction of American voters – 3.5% – would willingly put democratic principles and behavior before their desire to achieve “partisan ends and policy goals.”
Pew notes that among Americans surveyed who have a more optimistic view of the economy, 78% say they approve of the way the Washington has dealt with the virus. Conversely, those who say the American economy is in poor shape are less than half as likely to give the government response a positive rating.
Pew conducted the survey from June 10 to Aug. 3 among 14,276 adults.
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