The Citizens’ Attitudes Under the COVID-19 Pandemic project is coordinated by Sylvain Brouard (Sciences Po, CEVIPOF), Michael Becher (IAST, University of Toulouse 1), Martial Foucault (Sciences Po, CEVIPOF) and Pavlos Vasilopoulos (University of York and CEVIPOF). At different stages, they will all be involved in ensuring the success and relevance of the project for all those with responsibility for handling the COVID pandemic. Participation will be open to academics, institutions, and public or private organizations.
Faced with the COVID-19 pandemic and the massive challenge it entails for global health and economics, it is imperative that the social sciences be mobilized to measure, analyze and explain ordinary people’s perceptions of and behavioral reactions to the disease caused by the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). It is equally essential that attitudes towards policies on a number of issues – health, the economy, civil liberties – and towards governments and institutions be investigated and documented.
The project will investigate representations, attitudes and reactions among the general public in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic in a number of countries exposed to the coronavirus. Contrary to conventional research projects, this proposal will be implemented over a short period of time and offer relevant and immediate deliverables for academics and public decision-makers.
- To measure the dynamics of perceptions and (social) representations among different groups of people, based on stratified representative samples.
- To explain the reasons why people are more or less likely to comply with public recommendations under certain circumstances (to be investigated by online survey and randomized experiments).
- To address causal mechanisms by which people perceive the salience of how the virus disseminates differently and react to the discourse of public authorities and other public opinion leaders in their community accordingly.
- To study the conditions under which the post-COVID-19 period is likely both to increase fragmentation within societies and to affect social cohesion. The survey will provide information on how citizens’ expectations are shaped on the transformations and economic disorders they will have to deal with in the post COVID-19 era.
- To investigate how people respond to the crisis in terms of economic well-being, tax implications, preferences on the role of the State, economic choices related to the national context and supranational environment (cooperation vs. self-interest).
Benefits of the project
Apart from its academic contribution, this project aims to assist public authorities in making decisions and designing efficient policies, particularly in terms of information provision. The full implementation of policies to combat COVID-19 largely depends on their public acceptance as the imposition of confinement shows. In addition, public authorities may in the future have to make difficult choices in the allocation of scarce resources (e.g. tests), and this will require sensitive and appropriate communication strategies to maintain social cohesion. During the following days and weeks, the project will provide a unique public opinion barometer on individual well-being, fatigue, and attitudes toward public health recommendations that will allow for the understanding of (a) how different publics cope psychologically with the wave of unprecedented social distancing measures and (b) the extent to which the public health measures adopted may be compromised should citizens not cooperate fully.
More specifically, this project will help public authorities to: (1) identify the issues on which there is a high degree of consensus and those which are more controversial; (2) understand some of the factors which structure public opinion and social representations and which might hamper the implementation of health policies; (3) understand the mechanisms and contextual conditions by which people react differently in the case of an infectious disease.; (4) identify specific groups in the population who need to be targeted by more intense information campaigns (for instance, groups who are more likely to believe fake news).
Each week, the research team will provide policy makers (elected officials, government executives, senior civil servants etc.) with one or two memos and policy briefs.