Government Capacity, Societal Trust or Party Preferences? What Accounts for the Variety of National Policy Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic in Europe?

Paper by Dimiter Toshkov, Kutsal Yesilkagit and Brendan Carroll: “European states responded to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 with a variety of public policy measures. Governments across the continent acted more or less swiftly to close down schools, restrict arrival into their countries and travel within their territories, ban public meetings, impose local and national lockdowns, declare states of emergency and pass other emergency measures. Importantly, both the mix of policy tools as well as the speed with which they were enacted differed significantly even within the member states of the European Union.

In this article we ask what can account for this variation in policy responses, and we identify a number of factors related to institutions, general governance and specific health-sector related capacities, societal trust, government type, and party preferences as possible determinants. Using multivariate regression and survival analysis, we model the speed with which school closures, national lockdowns and states of emergency were announced. The models suggest a number of significant and often counterintuitive relationships: we find that more centralized countries with lower government effectiveness, freedom and societal trust, but with separate ministries of health and health ministers with medical background acted faster and more decisively. These results are important in light of the large positive effects early policy responses likely had on managing the impact of the pandemic….(More)”.