While many people approve of how their country has responded to the coronavirus pandemic, they also say the global crisis has been largely divisive, according to a new survey released on Thursday.
The Pew Research Center polled adults in 14 countries, such as Australia, Denmark, Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States. A median of 73% across the countries told the nonpartisan fact tank that their nation has done a “good job” of handling the COVID-19 pandemic, but a median of only 46% said their country is more united now than before the outbreak.
Some countries have handled the crisis better than others, according to respondents. The U.S. and U.K. — marked by “high levels of political polarization” — had the lowest approval ratings of the group, at 46% and 47%, respectively. Only 18% of U.S. respondents said their country is more united now, and 77% said they are more divided — by far the highest such percentage across the countries surveyed. In the U.S., “a patchwork of coronavirus-related restrictions reflects broad disagreement over the best path to economic recovery while mitigating the spread of the virus,” according to the report.
A median of 59% of those surveyed in all 14 countries said they believe more international cooperation would have reduced the number of cases in their country, Pew found.
“Feelings of national disunity are tied to feelings of distrust as well,” the report reads. “In many countries, those who say that, in general, most people cannot be trusted are more likely to say their country is now more divided than those who say most people can be trusted. In 11 of 14 countries surveyed, this gap exceeds 10 percentage points.”
Many countries, however, received strong ratings for how they have handled the outbreak. Australia and Denmark had approval ratings higher than 90%, according to Pew. Germany, South Korea and Sweden also received high marks for their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Seventy-two percent of those surveyed in Denmark also said their country is now more united. No other country had a percentage higher than 58% for unity.
Denmark and Germany are among a handful of countries that have managed the pandemic comparatively well and have reopened schools, moves that have reinforced public confidence. In April, Denmark was the first country in Europe to reopen classrooms.
Unsurprisingly, Pew found that the pandemic has been disruptive throughout all countries featured in the survey, with a median of 58% saying the crisis has changed their lives either a “great deal” or “fair amount.” But in 12 of the 14 countries surveyed, women were more likely than men to say their lives have changed.
“The changes that women have experienced during the pandemic could take many forms, and data underscores that women’s burdens have increased both at work and at home,” the authors wrote.
The Pew Research Center compiled the report by using data from phone surveys of 14,276 adults, conducted from June 10 to Aug. 3. The countries featured were Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, the U.K. and the U.S.
Thursday’s report builds on earlier studies examining how countries have managed caring for their populations amid the pandemic, and the ensuing public opinion on governments’ responses. A Pew survey in May showed Americans gave Germany and South Korea far higher approval ratings than the U.S. for their response to the pandemic.
Countries that have successfully managed the coronavirus pandemic share certain approaches, according to research released this summer by the University of Texas. Australia, China, New Zealand, Taiwan and Vietnam aggressively enforced lockdowns and social distancing while quickly implementing contact tracing and free and widespread testing.
“Countries that prioritized the opinions of their public health officials and scientists succeeded in avoiding mass death and widespread contagion,” writes the study’s author, Sundas Amer. “These stringent measures ensured that these countries were able to return to some form of normalcy relatively quickly. It is also clear that governments and local populations have to act in tandem to effectively tackle the coronavirus.”
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U.S., U.K. Rate Poorly for Coronavirus Pandemic Response, Survey Shows originally appeared on usnews.com