Trust in government falling?

Support for the government appears to be dropping


Covid-19 has given most world leaders a temporary rise in popularity

Many a regime has been toppled by a plague, but so far covid-19 is having the opposite effect. Most leaders have seen their approval ratings rise, even as the disease has killed at least 250,000 people. Morning Consult, a pollster, has found that a group of ten politicians have enjoyed an average gain of nine percentage points since the World Health Organisation declared a pandemic on March 11th. The sentiment has been felt widely: in Australia and Canada, India and Germany.

Academics call this pattern the “rally-round-the-flag” effect. It has often benefited American presidents during international crises. Studies have found that surging patriotism and meeker opposition both contribute. Yet not all catastrophes are a boon. George W. Bush’s lacklustre response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 punctured his ratings. Tony Blair’s fell after Islamists bombed London in 2005, as did François Hollande’s after the Paris attacks in 2015. Perhaps voters felt they had failed to police domestic terrorism well, whereas Americans saw the attacks in 2001 as an act of war.

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Is the public starting to turn against the government?

By Joe Harker

It has been an accepted truth of the lockdown that a people cannot be kept at home as much as possible without their consent.

If people understand why the lockdown is in place then it is easier to enforce and more successful. If people can trust that the government is doing the right thing then they can put up with a lot.

However, as time has gone by and the government has made a number of serious mistakes public support could be waning.

The Claim:

Westminster's approach has been very unique, by which we mean that not even the other countries in the UK have kept to their approach while the view of the British government abroad has been dealt a serious blow.

Other countries have looked at the approach Boris Johnson's government has taken and wondered what the hell they're playing at.

Meanwhile, the general public are also increasingly starting to question the government's competence over handling the pandemic, as the UK has been slow to introduce the lockdown, lethargic when it comes to testing and struggling to get a testing and tracking approach off the ground.

The public were willing to forgive some mistakes, after all it's no easy business dealing with a pandemic, but the cavalcade of missed opportunities, failures and shoddy excuses has started to lead to public support dropping.

Even some of Johnson's own MPs believe he's done everything the wrong way round, introducing measures weeks after he should have done while ministers are already marking dates in the calendar months away for relaxing restrictions.

There's only so long the government can screw up before the public's patience runs out and they are no longer willing to give ministers the benefit of the doubt. We could be approaching that moment.

The Counter Claim:

On the other hand, one should not be so quick to discount the "rally round the flag" effect.

At times of crisis governments and their leaders usually experience a boost in popularity as the public need them to succeed and have nobody else to turn to.

If you're in a tough situation and the people who are going to get you out of it aren't going away any time soon then you have little choice but to back them.

The public was willing to give Johnson the benefit of the doubt on the coronavirus and his approval ratings increased during the start of the pandemic. People will still need to trust that the government is able to deal with Covid-19.

Discontent doesn't mean the public has reached a point where they have turned against the government over their handling of the pandemic.

The Facts:

The government was polling at a net +60 approval rating for their handling of the coronavirus in mid-March, now they are at -3 in an Opinium poll and -2 in YouGov polling.

That means that more people now think the government is doing a bad job during this time of crisis than approve of the measures they are taking. It is the first time the government's approval ratings on coronavirus have dipped into the negative.

The UK's death toll from the virus is the highest in Europe and the second highest in the world, while the total number of confirmed cases is the fourth highest in the world. Only the far more populous nations of the US, Russia and Brazil have more confirmed cases.

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