Governments across Europe are now preparing to manage the easing of coronavirus restrictions, nearly 18 months after they were first introduced. The leaders of Germany, France, Italy, and Spain all pursued different measures as a means of keeping their populations safe from coronavirus, with varying degrees of compliance, popularity, and success. With restrictions beginning to lift across the continent, and vaccination rates continuing to rise, we at Redfield & Wilton Strategies have examined the attitudes of the French, German, Italian, and Spanish publics towards their respective governments’ handling of the coronavirus crisis, as well as attitudes towards coronavirus management strategies elsewhere in Europe.
Overall, many respondents agree that, among given European countries, the German Government has managed the coronavirus pandemic the most effectively. In France, whilst a plurality of respondents (34%) do not know which government should be judged as the most effective, 30% of people see Germany’s Government as having managed the pandemic most effectively. This latter view is shared by pluralities of Italian (25%) and Spanish respondents (46%). However, just 27% of Germans see their own government as the most effective, whilst a plurality (37%) says they do not know.
Germany’s strict lockdown and cautious reopening of society seem to have won Angela Merkel’s Government the approval of much of the broader European public. Merkel herself was widely praised in the initial stages of the pandemic for her calm management style and demeanour. That being said, the slow speed with which vaccinations were initially rolled out in Germany could potentially explain German respondents’ greater reluctance to say their government has managed the pandemic most effectively.
Indeed, although there is little consensus over which European government performed the worst during the pandemic, respondents seem especially critical of their own countries’ pandemic management.
Pluralities of Spanish (37%) and Italian (23%) respondents say their own governments have managed the pandemic least effectively, whilst considerable proportions of both French (29%) and German (24%) respondents believe their governments managed the pandemic least effectively as well. A plurality of respondents in both France and Germany are unsure on which European government has been the least effective: 34% of French respondents and 29% of German respondents say they do not know who managed the pandemic the least effectively out of those five countries.
There is some level of consensus amongst respondents, however, regarding which country has had the most effective vaccine rollout. 31% of German respondents, 35% of Spanish respondents, 27% of French respondents, and 35% of Italian respondents believe the UK to have had the most effective vaccination rollout. There is less agreement on the UK’s wider pandemic management: pluralities in France (39%) and Germany (30%) think the UK has managed the COVID-19 pandemic ‘about the same’ as their own countries, whereas pluralities in Italy (38%) and Spain (34%) believe the UK has managed the pandemic better than their own countries. Overall, there appears to be no overtly negative views of the UK Government’s pandemic management.
In terms of attitudes towards their own countries’ respective vaccine rollouts, whilst a fifth (20%) of Italian respondents feel Italy has been the most effective, this view is not shared by respondents across the other nations: just 5% of German and French respondents and 3% of Spanish respondents feel that the Italian Government has overseen the most effective vaccine rollout scheme. While some German respondents are also somewhat confident in their own government’s vaccine rollout relative to the other nations’, with 22% suggesting Germany has had the most effective rollout, 32% say they do not know. Spanish respondents are, in contrast, definitively lacking confidence in the Spanish vaccination rollout: just 12% feel their government has been the most effective, whereas a significant 20% say they do not know. Likewise, whereas 16% of French respondents feel the French Government has managed the vaccination rollout most effectively, 33% are unsure.
Overall, our research shows that the UK is deemed by many to have been most effective in rolling out coronavirus vaccinations, whilst Germany is perceived amongst these European countries as having managed the coronavirus crisis most effectively. Though there is little consensus on whether France, Italy, Germany, or Spain has overseen the least effective pandemic management, many respondents are not hesitant to criticise their own government’s pandemic management strategies.