WHU General

Too Strong Or Too Weak?

Why citizens criticize the lockdown

After analyzing a survey of more than 100,000 people worldwide, the study "Trust in Government Actions During the COVID-19 Crisis" shows, how criticism of too strong but also of too weak measures taken by governments against the spread of the Coronavirus arises. Building on that, another survey suggests that especially citizens with a penchant for conspiracy theories are much quicker to criticize too far-reaching measures.

In recent weeks, there has been criticism in many countries on measures against the COVID-19 crisis. At the same time, however, there is also dissatisfaction in many countries about insufficient measures taken by governments. A study by Professor Dr. Mei Wang, WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management, and Professor Dr. Marc Oliver Rieger, University of Trier, examines what is causing these opinions and how they affect satisfaction with the respective government. The differences between the countries vary greatly: e.g., there is great disapproval in Thailand, Venezuela, and Russia. People in Vietnam, Qatar and New Zealand are very satisfied with the measures of their respective government. Germany ranks in the upper midfield.

The most important criterion for satisfaction is that the measures are perceived as well-dosed – not too strong and not too weak. However, the study shows a great asymmetry: a "too little" often results from weak reactions to the crisis and high death rates, while a "too much" is unaffected by these "hard" facts. Instead, something completely different plays a role: receptivity to conspiracy theories of all kinds. Among those who perceive the measures in Germany as "too strong", two thirds showed a tendency towards conspiracy theories. Among the others, it was not even one in four. Wang and Rieger explain that, of course, not every critic should be pigeonholed as a "conspiracy theorist", but it seems that the majority of critics of "too strong" restrictions do indeed fall into this category.

Read the full study