Lockdown: When do people comply?

When governments decide which lockdown measures to take, they should keep general public preferences for government interventions in mind. If the lockdown turns out to be relatively too strict, compliance will drop, CRC member Nate Breznau and his colleagues Hung H.V. Nguyen and Lisa Heukamp write in their forthcoming paper in the Social Policy Review. In certain cases, giving people some slack will yield better results.

For their study, Nguyen, Breznau and Heukamp compared non-Covid related public preferences for government intervention (data stemming from 2016) to government actions taken to confine the Covid-19 pandemic in early March 2020 across 32 middle to high income countries.

Interestingly, the authors did not find any association between the public preferences and the governments’ response to the pandemic. What the authors found instead was that the discrepancy between them had been influential for public behaviour a couple of weeks later: “Where the government took much stronger interventions in the outbreak stage relative to public preferences for non-Covid government interventions, the public were more likely to engage in risky social behaviors, such as going out when asked not to, attending social gatherings, or not keeping a safe distance from others.” And where governments took weaker measures, the public more likely to avoid such risky behaviours.

Data sources for their study were the International Social Survey Program, the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker, and the Measuring Worldwide COVID-19 Attitudes and Beliefs survey.

The forthcoming paper “Locked Down or Locked In? Institutionalized Public Preferences and Pandemic Policy Feedback in 32 Countries” will be published in Social Policy Review, Volume 33.


Photo: Adobe Stock/Jon Anders Wiken
Photo: Adobe Stock/Jon Anders Wiken

Dr. Nate Breznau
SFB 1342: Globale Entwicklungsdynamiken von Sozialpolitik
Mary-Somerville-Straße 5
28359 Bremen
E-Mail: nbreznau@uni-bremen.de