How Americans View Other Countries Coronavirus Handling in Comparison to Their Own

May 16, 2021
R&WS Research Team
Coronavirus | Health
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The United States suffered from high case and deaths rates very early into the pandemic, but the success of the vaccination programme has led many experts to believe that the country is turning a corner in its battle against coronavirus. Nevertheless, the US still has the highest number of cumulative coronavirus cases in the world.

Research conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies this week asked US respondents whether they think other countries did a better or worse job tackling the coronavirus crisis than the United States. While the results varied by country, we consistently found drastic differences between age groups: younger respondents are significantly more likely to say that the vast majority of countries listed did a better job than the United States, while older respondents are much more likely to say they did a worse or similar job. This result suggests that older Americans have a more sympathetic view of America’s handling of the pandemic compared to younger Americans.

Starting with America’s neighbours, 35% of the US public think Canada did a better job than the US at handling the coronavirus pandemic and a further 34% think they performed about the same. Only 10% think Canada did a worse job at handling the crisis. A fifth (22%) say they don’t know.

Majorities of 18-to-24-year-olds (55%) and 25-to-34-year-olds (52%) think Canada has handled the crisis better than the United States, compared to only 22% of those 65 and over. Instead, pluralities of 55-to-64-year-olds (34%) and those 65 and over (44%) think Canada has handled the coronavirus crisis ‘about the same’ as the United States.

Thinking about the United States’ southerly neighbour, a plurality (28%) say they don’t know how Mexico’s handling of the pandemic compares to the United States, while 27% think Mexico has handled the pandemic worse than the United States. A fifth (21%) think they have been ‘about the same,’ and just 15% think Mexico has handled the crisis better.

Conversely, only 15% of 18-to-24-year-olds and 25-to-34-year-olds think that Mexico has handled the crisis worse than the US, and pluralities in the younger age groups think Mexico has done a better job. By contrast, just 4% of those 65 and over think Mexico has done a better job at handling the pandemic than the US, and the majority (57%) think Mexico has done a worse job.

Brazil has consistently struggled with high case and death rates throughout the pandemic, and the emergence of a new variant in the country has caused a greater proportion of young people to die from the virus. More than half of patients in intensive care for the coronavirus in Brazil are under 40.

A plurality (38%) of Americans think Brazil has done a worse job at handling the coronavirus crisis compared to the US, while a fifth (19%) think Brazil has been about the same as the US, and just 15% think Brazil has done a better job. 28% say they don’t know.

Despite Brazil having a higher number of deaths per capita than the United States, a plurality (38%) of 18-to-24-year-olds think Brazil has handled the coronavirus crisis better than the United States, and only a fifth (19%) think they have handled it worse. Pluralities in all other age groups think Brazil has handled the pandemic worse than the US.

Looking to continental Europe, the US public is divided as to how well France has handled the pandemic compared to the United States: 21% say France has handled it better, 28% about the same, and a further 24% say France has handled it worse. 28% don’t know.

A plurality (30%) think Germany has handled the crisis ‘about the same’ as the United States, but a further 29% say they don’t know. A fifth (19%) think Germany has handled the crisis worse, and a further fifth (21%) say Germany has handled the pandemic better than the United States.

Italy was one of the first countries hit by the coronavirus crisis after China and, as such, many countries were initially sympathetic to the struggles Italy was facing in handling the pandemic. Yet Italy is now in the midst of a third wave of cases, with a lagging vaccination programme. 28% of the US public think Italy has handled the coronavirus crisis ‘about the same’ as the United States. A further 28% think Italy has handled the crisis worse.

Approximately a third (36%) think the United Kingdom has handled the coronavirus crisis about the same as the United States. 26% say they don’t know how the US and UK compare, while the remainder are split between the UK having handled the crisis better (19%) or worse (18%) than the United States.

35% think that China, where the virus originated, has handled the coronavirus crisis worse than the United States. A fifth (18%) think China has handled the pandemic ‘about the same’ as the US, while a further fifth (18%) think China has handled the pandemic better.

43% of 18-to-24-year-olds think China has handled the crisis better than the United States compared to just 8% of those 65 and over. Previous research conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies found that older respondents were more likely to be critical of the Chinese government’s initial handling of the pandemic and were more sceptical about the official Chinese case and death figures.

South Korea was praised for its swift action to tackle coronavirus, which has led to less than 2,000 deaths in the country. Yet, a plurality (35%) of Americans say they do not know how South Korea’s handling of the crisis compares to the United States, and a quarter (24%) think South Korea has handled the pandemic worse than the US. A fifth (21%) think South Korea has handled the pandemic better, and a further fifth (20%) think South Korea has performed better.

Younger people are more likely to say South Korea has handled the crisis better than the United States, but a significant minority (19-29%) in all age groups think South Korea has handled the pandemic worse.

In recent weeks, Indian coronavirus case and death rates have reached record daily highs. The majority (52%) of the US public think that India has handled the crisis worse than the United States, including a third (36%) who think India’s handling has been significantly worse. A quarter (25%) think India’s handling has been better, and 13% think it has been about the same.

28% of 18-to-24-year-olds and 24% of 25-to-24-year-olds think India has handled the coronavirus pandemic better than the United States, compared to just 2% of 55-to-64-year-olds and 3% of those aged 65 and over.The vast majority (74%) of those aged 65 and over think the pandemic has been handled worse by India than the United States.

Finally, both Australia and New Zealand have both been praised for their harsh measures with the aim of eradicating coronavirus, which have led to few deaths and cases. Indeed, a third (32% and 33%) think Australia and New Zealand have handled the coronavirus better than the United States. Even so, a small minority think that Australia (13%) and New Zealand (11%) have handled the pandemic worse than the US. While both countries have succeeded in keeping case and death rates low, it involved imposing harsh restrictions on the population and on travel, even for citizens trapped overseas. As such, when assessing how the United States stacks up against other countries, the US public may be looking beyond the figures.

Ultimately, despite the United States being one of the worst affected countries in terms of total reported case and death numbers, there are very few countries that the US public think have handled the crisis better than the United States. These results suggest that, when assessing the handling of the pandemic, other factors such as vaccination programmes or the severity of restrictions may be considered important, as well as the overall longevity of the crisis in the United States compared to other countries. However, there are significant differences between the age groups, and younger people are far more likely to say that other countries have handled the crisis better than the United States even if they too have had high case numbers. Conversely, older people are far more likely to say the United States has handled the pandemic better or on par with other countries.

To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

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