France has experienced the fourth highest number of coronavirus cases of any nation, and the highest in Europe. Amidst its third national lockdown, there has been significant criticism of and dissatisfaction with the French Government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, particularly in contrast to what some view as more successful responses to the crisis from other nations. In Redfield & Wilton Strategies’ latest poll, we asked French adults how they think thirteen other countries have handled the crisis in comparison to France and found that out of those nations, the only country which a plurality of respondents think has handled the coronavirus crisis worse than France is the United States, at 37%.

Indeed, the US has had the most coronavirus infections and deaths from the virus in the world. Still, a considerable 24% of French respondents say the US has handled the crisis about the same as France, and 21% say the US has handled it better than France, possibly as a result of the United States’ relatively faster vaccine rollout. To this point, the proportion of respondents who believe the United States has handled the coronavirus crisis worse than France has decreased substantially from 65% in May 2020.

Regarding France’s southern and western neighbours, a plurality of respondents believe Italy (43%) and Spain (43%) have handled the coronavirus crisis about as well as France, results that have not meaningfully changed since May last year. A quarter believes both Italy (25%) and Spain (24%) have handled the crisis better than France, while 15% think Italy and 14% think Spain handled it worse.

But looking to the east, a plurality of respondents (43%) believe Germany has handled the coronavirus crisis better than France, whereas just 7% say worse. The proportion of respondents who think Germany has handled the crisis better, however, has decreased from 64% in May 2020, perhaps because of recent frustrations with the vaccine programmes in both France and Germany.

Pluralities continue to believe that Sweden (35%) and the Netherlands (32%) have handled the crisis better than France, though the figures have decreased since May from 47% and 41%, respectively.

Meanwhile, 31% of respondents say that both Austria and Greece have handled the coronavirus crisis ‘about the same’ as France, though a slightly greater proportion of respondents say they do not know how Austria’s (34%) and Greece’s (35%) responses to the crisis compare to France’s. By comparison, in May 2020, a plurality said Austria (45%) and Greece (31%) had handled the crisis better than France.

In May of last year, almost half (46%) of French respondents thought the United Kingdom had handled the coronavirus crisis worse than France. Now, likely due to the significantly more advanced vaccine rollout in the UK and its easing of restrictions just as France locks down, the plurality (34%) of respondents believe the UK has handled the crisis better than France. A fifth (19%) still believe the UK has handled the crisis worse.

A plurality of French respondents also think that China (41%) and South Korea (38%) have handled the coronavirus crisis better than France, likely a consequence of these nations’ significantly lower reported case and death counts. 16% say China handled the crisis worse than France (down from 26% in May), while a minimal 8% say South Korea handled it worse—though a third (33%) say they don’t know how South Korea compares. 

Lastly, with respect to the Oceanic countries that have been praised for their responses to the pandemic, over a third of respondents believe Australia (35%) and New Zealand (36%) handled the coronavirus crisis better than France, echoing results from our May 2020 poll. A slight plurality (36% and 37%) of respondents continue to say they don’t know.

On the whole, it appears as though the French have a fairly negative view on how their country has handled the coronavirus crisis when compared to other nations: a considerable proportion of French respondents believe Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, the UK, China, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand did a better job responding to the crisis than France. Much of the public views France’s handling of the crisis as being on a similar level to that of Italy, Spain, Austria, and Greece, with only the United States being identified as a nation which handled the crisis worse than France.

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