Theme: Political Economy

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Trust, Governance, and the Covid-19 Pandemic: an Explainer using Longitudinal Data from the United Kingdom

James Weinberg


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Crises like the Covid-19 pandemic place an added premium on the social contract underpinning principal-agent relations in representative democracies, which relies, at a fundamental level, on conditional trust judgements by those without power in those with decision-making authority to act in their better interests. Existing studies of political trust during the pandemic suggest that it has been both a symptom of government activity as well as a cause of its success or failure. Presenting original longitudinal data collected from UK citizens at the start of the pandemic and again twenty months later, the article teases apart these dynamics and their implications. It shows, for example, that the public became less trusting and more distrusting of politicians during this unique moment, and that these trends are strongly linked to performance evaluations of the UK government as well as public compliance with mandatory and non-mandatory policies such as vaccination and mask wearing.

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