Political trust during the Covid-19 pandemic: Rally around the flag or lockdown effects?

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Abstract

How can we explain the rise in diffuse political support during the Covid-19 pandemic? Recent research has argued that the lockdown measures generated political support. In contrast, I argue that the intensity of the pandemic rallied people around political institutions. Collective angst in the face of exponentially rising Covid-19 cases depresses the usual cognitive evaluations of institutions and leads citizens to rally around existing intuitions as a lifebuoy. Using a representative Dutch household survey conducted over March 2020, I compare the lockdown effect to the dynamic of the pandemic. I find that the lockdown effect is driven by pre-existing time trends. Accounting for non-linearities in time makes the lockdown effect disappear. In contrast, more flexible modelling techniques reveal a robust effect of Covid-19 infections on political trust. In line with an anxiety effect, I find that standard determinants of political trust – such as economic evaluations and social trust – lose explanatory power as the pandemic spreads. This speaks to an emotionally driven rally effect that pushes cognitive evaluations to the background.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Political Research
Volume60
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)1007-1017
Number of pages11
ISSN0304-4130
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

© 2020 European Consortium for Political Research.

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • political trust
  • rally effect

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