Eurotrack: how well have governments handled coronavirus?
March 30th, 2021, Jemma Conner

Eurotrack: how well have governments handled coronavirus?

Public across five countries disapprove of EU’s handling of the vaccine rollout

YouGov's latest Eurotrack survey looked at how people in Britain, Germany, France, Denmark and Sweden feel their governments have performed through the coronavirus pandemic. The view was decidedly mixed in terms of their own governments' performance, but there is one area of clear agreement: the EU has handled the rollout of the vaccine badly.

In all five countries, a majority feel that the EU has done badly. This is felt most strongly in Germany, where three-quarters (75%) give a negative opinion, including a third (36%) who say very badly. It's worth noting that the fieldwork was conducted before there was talk of vaccine blockages between the EU and the UK.

Adults in Britain, France and Sweden were also scathing in their review of the EU's performance, with just a fifth of respondents (20%) in France and Sweden saying the EU has done well (69% and 63% respectively say it has done poorly). The proportion of Britons who feel the EU has done a good job is the lowest of the five countries, with just 14% having a positive opinion, while 65% think it has done badly.

The EU has the most support from adults in Denmark, but even here, just a third (34%) give a positive view. Half (50%) think the EU has done a bad job.

Looking at their own government’s handling of the vaccine rollout, an overwhelming 85% of Brits feel their government has handled the COVID vaccination rollout well, much higher support than in the other countries surveyed. Only Denmark comes close, with over half supporting the government's approach (55%). The polling makes for particularly grim reading for Germany and France – just 13% and 18% respectively think their governments have handled the rollout well compared to 81% and 77% who say badly.

These results reflect the stark differences in how many people have been vaccinated in each of the five countries. Britain has administered over 30 million individual doses, compared to 11 million in France and 12 million in Germany.

Protecting health and jobs

When it comes to how national governments have performed in terms of protecting people's health more generally, Denmark is the only country where a majority think their government has done well in this aspect (80%). Just 16% have a negative view of their government. Denmark currently has one of the lowest coronavirus death rates in Europe, recording just under 2,500 deaths a year on from the beginning of the pandemic.

British adults are more evenly split, although the balance is slightly tipped in the government's favour (51%, versus 44% who thought the government has done badly). Germans are also divided, but with opinion falling the other way – half (50%) feel the government has done badly, with 45% giving the opposite view. A majority in both France (60%) and Sweden (56%) have a negative opinion of the government's performance in response to the pandemic in terms of health.

A key challenge when tackling the pandemic has been balancing healthcare and the economy, yet no single government is seen in a particularly positive light when looking at how they have protected people's jobs through the pandemic. Denmark were yet again the most positive about their government’s response (54% well, 40% badly), though noticeably less so than they were over their government’s healthcare response.

At the start of the pandemic, Denmark took preventative measures at a very early stage, while the Swedish government was reluctant to follow suit, instead adopting a policy of asking people to use their common sense, allowing the economy to remain more open. One year on, this more open response doesn’t appear to have translated into public approval when it comes to protecting jobs, 50% saying they’ve done a bad job compared to 40% good job.

Adults in Britain (51% well, 41% badly) and France (37% well, 57% badly) rate their governments’ response to protecting jobs similarly to their handling of healthcare, while Germans are more pessimistic. Just 34% of adults in Germany think their government has done a good job at protecting jobs compared to 56% who say they’ve done a bad job.

Light at the end of the tunnel?

Looking to the future, there is a mixed picture in terms of when people think life might get 'back to normal'. Respondents in Denmark and Britain, where lockdown restrictions are gradually being eased, are the most optimistic, with 68% and 58% respectively saying life will be 'back to normal' within a year or less.

With a third wave of the virus and tightening restrictions, the view is less optimistic in France and Germany, with just 42% and 48% respectively thinking that we will be 'back to normal' within a year. One in eleven Germans (9%) feel that life will never get 'back to normal'. In Sweden, a country that never entered a full lockdown, 52% think life will get 'back to normal' within a year – this is despite the government introducing emergency laws in January that allows them to impose coronavirus-related restrictions for the first time.