Danes approve of government response to coronavirus crisis

Danes approve of government response to coronavirus crisis
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen during a Covid-19 briefing in March. Photo: Ida Guldbæk Arentsen/Ritzau Scanpix
Public approval ratings for the government's management of the coronavirus crisis were higher in Denmark than any other country included in a new survey.

The approach to dealing with the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic has differed in almost every country and continues to do so, and a new wide-ranging survey from the Pew Research Centre has revealed that public approval ratings towards government's handling of the crisis also vary widely.

According to the survey, 95 percent of people in Denmark believed their government did a good job in handling the crisis. That is the highest rating for any country in the analysis, which encompassed 14 advanced economies.

Denmark was one of the first countries in Europe to emerge from lockdown and re-open its schools. After a summer spike of infections that promoted fears of a second wave the spread of infections was once again rapidly brought under control.

Second to Denmark in the survey was Australia, where 94 percent approved of the government's response.

“In Denmark, currently led by the center-left Social Democrats, and in Australia, whose leader Scott Morrison belongs to the center-right Liberal Party of Australia, at least nine-in-ten adults on both the political left and political right believe their country has done well against the coronavirus,” Pew Research Center research associate Kat Devlin, one of the report authors, told US media CNN.

People in Britain were the least impressed with their country’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak with only 46 percent of the British population believing that their country has done a good job in handling the crisis. That was the lowest score out of 14 countries around the world.   

Approval ratings were low in the United States, at 47 percent. 

In Nordic neighbour Sweden, where the government has followed a different and more controversial strategy by opting to avoid lockdowns and rely more on the public to enforce social distancing themselves, some 71 percent of the public believed authorities had done a good job.

Have lives changed?

Members of the public were also asked whether their lives had changed as a result of the outbreak and it was Denmark where the pandemic appeared to have had the least impact on people's lives.

Some 73 percent of Danes say their lives have hardly changed as a result of the outbreak. At the other end of the scale 71 percent of Swedes believed their lives had changed substantially.

Could European and international cooperation have helped?

Interestingly, although most populations around Europe agreed that “more international cooperation would have potentially reduced coronavirus fatalities”, this wasn’t the case for Denmark.

“As confirmed cases of the coronavirus top 20 million globally, many in the countries surveyed say that count could have been minimised through stronger international cooperation. 

“Missed opportunities for cooperation to reduce coronavirus cases are felt especially strongly in Europe, where failure to coordinate the initial response led to sudden and severe outbreaks in Northern Italy and Spain.

“More than half of the people surveyed in seven of the nine European countries studied say that more cooperation would have reduced coronavirus cases,” the study said.

But this wasn't the view of Danes, who seem to believe their country was better off handling the crisis independently. 

“78 percent of Danes think the number of coronavirus cases would not have been reduced by international cooperation. A majority in Germany also say that cooperation would not have reduced case numbers,” the Pew report notes.

Are countries more divided?

People across each country were also asked whether the pandemic had led to more division. In most places the results were not conclusive, but Denmark was again an outlier, with 72  percent of the population feeling the country was more united than before.

A majority of Swedes (58 percent) also held the that view, but respondents in other countries were more undecided – apart from the US, where 77 percent felt their country was divided.

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