Summary

In times of crisis and change, such as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, trust is of paramount importance. Confronted by the emergence and spread of a new and deadly virus, governments across the globe are called to forge a crisis strategy to deal with the consequences for public health, the economy and society at large. The success of such crisis strategy depends on citizens' acceptance of and compliance with crisis management policies. Therefore, citizen's trust in these policies and the government(s) issuing them is crucial. 

From its interdisciplinary expertise, the GOVTRUST Centre of Excellence was able to make some important research contributions on (trust and) the coronavirus crisis. Topics covered include, for example:

  • Trust in COVID-19 policies
  • Changes in trust and rule compliance over time
  • Legitimacy of COVID-19 legislation
  • Trust and vaccination
  • Federalism and the COVID-19 crisis
  • Legality, fundamental rights and corona measures
  • Government communication on corona

The GOVTRUST Centre of Excellence also cooperated in the University of Antwerp's large Corona Study. Since the start of the coronavirus crisis, the University of Antwerp conducts a (two-)weekly survey to estimate the impact of the coronavirus crisis in Flanders, Belgium. Some of the publications below make use of the rich dataset resulting from this survey.

Please find below an overview of contributions on the coronavirus crisis from members of the GOVTRUST consortium.​

Publications and presentations

Since the start of the coronavirus crisis, members of the GOVTRUST consortium have published and presented their research through various outlets. Please find and overview below.

Citizens' Compliance with Corona Measures: A Matter of Trust in Government? (in Dutch)

Koen Verhoest
  • The University of Antwerp's Faculty of Social Sciences organised an event Lesson of the Century on February 5, 2021. The topic of the event was "Corona-related Social Science Research" and was aimed at an audience of 16 to 18 year old secondary school students. Koen Verhoest presented the research on trust in government and compliance with corona measures.
  • The video recording of the presentation is available on Youtube.
  • More information about the event (in Dutch)

Addressing Concerns on the COVID-19 Vaccines through Appropriate Communication (in Dutch)

Karolien Poels
  • The University of Antwerp's Faculty of Social Sciences organised an event Lesson of the Century on February 5, 2021. The topic of the event was "Corona-related Social Science Research" and was aimed at an audience of 16 to 18 year old secondary school students. Karolien Poels presented her research on addressing concerns on the COVID-19 vaccines through appropriate communication.
  • The video recording of the presentation is available on Youtube.
  • More information about the event (in Dutch)

The Reactions of Citizens on Covid-19 Exit Measures

Patricia Popelier, Bjorn Kleizen, Carolyn Declerck, Monika Glavina & Wouter Van Dooren

First research report from the project "Trust, legitimacy and intended compliance with COVID-19 exit strategy measures"

  • Report only available in Dutch: read more and download
  • Description: The report brings the first results of a survey experiment on the perceptions of citizens on government measures after the first wave of Covid-19. In particular, it examines how the support of citizens for the exit measures changed according to the focus on either social needs or security considerations in a government decision. 

Trust & Rule Compliance

​Frédérique Six & Monika Glavina
  • Presentation at the TiGRE webinar series "Trust & Regulatory Governance in an Age of Crisis", 17 December 2020
  • Presentation slides and a video recording of the webinar are available on the TiGRE website.
  • Description: As the Covid-19 crisis proceeds, motivating citizens to continue to comply with regulations that impact heavily on the life that they were accustomed to before the outbreak, gets more and more challenging. The literature shows convincing evidence that trust in government (regulator) has a positive impact on rule compliance, both under normal conditions and in times of crisis. In the webinar, Frédérique Six, together with Monika Glavina, compared insights from several theoretical perspectives and provided implications for practice.

Crisis Management by Ministerial Decree (in Dutch)

​Patricia Popelier
  • Popelier, P. (2020). Crisisbeheer per ministerieel besluit. Tijdschrift voor wetgeving, 4(2020), p. 282-291.
  • Description: In dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, several measures were taken by government (e.g. lockdown, social distancing, citizen wellbeing, economy support, etc.). In Belgium, these measures were established in different ways, but mostly by way of a ministerial decree. The central question in this article is: what is constitutionally the most acceptable basis for rapid and decisive action in crisis situations?

Trust & Vaccination

​Koen Verhoest, Sophie Op de Beeck & Monika Glavina
  • Presentation at the TiGRE webinar series "Trust & Regulatory Governance in an Age of Crisis", 18 November 2020
  • Presentation slides and a video recording of the webinar are available on the TiGRE website.
  • Description: Large-scale vaccination with an eventual COVID-19 vaccine is considered by most governments and citizens to be the ultimate solution of the current health crisis. However, vaccination hesitancy, intensified by anti-vaccination movements, is a major problem, both in normal times and in health crises. During a webinar in the TiGRE webinar series on "Trust & Regulatory Governance in an Age of Crisis", Koen Verhoest, Sophie Op de Beeck and Monika Glavina reviewed the theoretical and empirical insights in literature on the effect of trust on vaccination hesitancy and vaccination refusal and discussed its explanatory power in relation to other relevant factors. They also discussed recent findings on vaccination hesitancy in the context of the COVID-19 crisis.

Taking a COVID-19 vaccine or not? Do trust in government and trust in experts help us to understand vaccination intention?

Jan Wynen, Sophie Op de Beeck, Koen Verhoest, Frédérique Six, Monika Glavina, Pierre Van Damme & Koen Pepermans
  • Paper presented at the digital conference 'Political Trust in Crisis', 22-23 October 2020
  • Paper presented at the virtual NIG (Netherlands Institute of Governance) Annual Work Conference 2020, 12 November 2020
  • Abstract: Governments worldwide are currently focusing on the development of a COVID-19 vaccine to end the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting crisis. Although the scientific progress in the development of a vaccine appears to be promising, policymakers are facing an extra hurdle as increasingly more people appear to be hesitant in their intention to take such a vaccine. This paper aims to explain the intention to get vaccinated by linking it to trust in government and experts, while also taking into account risk perceptions and prosocialness of individuals. Trust in government’s capacity to deal with the coronavirus crisis and trust in experts’ advice provides legitimacy to policymakers’ actions and is, therefore, expected to play a pivotal role in the vaccination decision. The link between trust in government and experts and the intention to get vaccinated is examined using a large Corona survey conducted in Flanders, a region within Belgium. We find that trust in government has a positive, but a rather small effect on the intention to get vaccinated. Trust in experts has a more pronounced influence on vaccination intention. Also, individuals who believe the COVID-19 disease is likely to have serious consequences, and who have underlying medical conditions making them more vulnerable have a stronger intention to get vaccinated, as well as individuals with stronger prosocial attitudes. Furthermore, men, older people and people with higher education are more likely to accept a new COVID-19 vaccine. Given the important consequences of vaccine uptake for the success of a COVID-19 vaccine, we hope these results lead to a better understanding of this important issue.

How the Effect of Trust and Other Factors on Rule Compliance Changes Over Time During the COVID-19 Crisis

Frédérique Six, Steven De Vadder, Monika Glavina & Koen Verhoest
  • Paper presented at the online EGPA conference, 4 September 2020
  • Paper presented at the virtual NIG (Netherlands Institute of Governance) Annual Work Conference 2020, 12 November 2020
  • Abstract: Extant literature shows convincing evidence that there is a positive relationship between trust and rule compliance. This effect is seen in two different strands of research: during normal, non-crisis times and in times of crisis. There is, however, very little research that combines these different strands and traces how the relationship between trust and rule compliance changes over time, especially during a major international crisis. In this study we integrate these strands of literature, formulating hypotheses to test whether trust and other relevant drivers - fear, (rule) legitimacy, pro-socialness and observed other people’s compliance (social contagion) - impact rule compliance during the different phases of the COVID-19 pandemic. We test our hypotheses with data collected at three different moments during the COVID-19 crisis in Flanders, Belgium (Survey Wave 1, April 7, N = 207,304; Survey Wave 2, April 28, N = 108,415; Survey Wave 3, June 30; N = 25,241). Survey Wave 1 was at the peak of the crisis, with a stringent lockdown and still increasing numbers of daily infections and deaths; Survey Wave 2 was completed when the number of daily infections and deaths had reduced substantially and many physical distancing measures were still in force; while Survey Wave 3 was just before yet another relaxation of measures with low numbers of daily infections and deaths. We use regression analyses with bootstrapping to analyse the data. Our findings suggest that the impact of trust on compliance is more nuanced than hitherto found, especially during crises; and that social contagion and fear are important drivers of compliance. We suggest that Lindenberg’s Goal Framing Theory is a potential candidate to explain the dynamics of the drivers of rule compliance during a prolonged crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic and propose further research to test that hypothesis.

COVID-19 Legislation in Belgium at the Crossroads of a Political and a Health Crisis

​Patricia Popelier
  • Popelier, P. (2020). COVID-19 legislation in Belgium at the crossroads of a political and a health crisis. The Theory and Practice of Legislation, vol. 8, issue 1-2, pp. 131-153.
  • Abstract: This paper discusses the corona virus crisis legislation in Belgium, against the background of a political crisis. It raises the questions how a minority government could find legitimacy to take drastic measures that impact upon fundamental rights and how the political crisis impacted the position of Parliament. This is examined from the viewpoint of input, throughput and output legitimacy, and with a comparison to the position of Parliament in Belgium during earlier crises and in the federated entities. The conclusions point to the increased importance of expert advice, an over-use of ministerial police powers, but also to a more important role for Parliament than what we could have expected under the reign of a majority government. While the political crisis did not hinder firm intervention in an initial phase, it is, however, problematic to deal with the effects of the crisis over the longer term.

Trust in COVID-19 Government Policies

Koen Verhoest, Wouter Van Dooren & Steven De Vadder
  • Research note available online: read more.
  • Abstract: In democratic regimes, trust of citizens in government policy is of great importance to ensure successful policy implementation. It is impossible to put a police officer on each street corner to enforce compliance. Since successful COVID-19 policy also depends on the acceptance of that policy by the citizens, citizens’ trust in these policies is crucial. In this short research note, prof. dr. Koen Verhoest, prof. dr. Wouter van Dooren and Steven de Vadder, together with the other members of GOVTRUST, discuss novel results on Flemish citizens' trust in government during the coronavirus crisis based on three waves (April 7th, April 28th and May 26, 2020) of the University of Antwerp’s weekly Corona Study. These results provide insight into citizens’ risk perception, trust in government to properly deal with the coronavirus crisis, the trustworthiness of information sources regarding coronavirus, and the extent to which government measures are perceived to be effective and/or restrictive.

Media contributions

  • Patricia Popelier in a debate on the corona measures on ATV (28 Feb 2021; in Dutch) - watch the debate (from 26:30)
  • Patricia Popelier on proxies for the corona measures in Knack (24 Feb 2021; in Dutch) - read more
  • Patricia Popelier on a pandemic law and the legal basis for the corona measures in Knack (17 Feb 2021; in Dutch) - read more
  • Patricia Popelier on the legal basis for the corona measures in De Wereld Vandaag, Radio 1 (16 Feb 2021; in Dutch) - listen here
  • Karolien Poels on vaccination hesitancy among youth in De Morgen (4 Feb 2021; in Dutch) - read more
  • Opinion piece by Wouter Van Dooren and Stefaan Walgrave on the vaccination campaign in Belgium (13 Jan 2021; in Dutch) - read more
  • Patricia Popelier on a pandemic law in De Morgen (6 Jan 2021; in Dutch). - read more
  • Patricia Popelier on a pandemic law in De Standaard (6 Jan 2021; in Dutch). - read more
  • Contribution by Michel Walrave and colleagues on the use of and the concerns regarding the Coronalert-app in the University of Antwerp's Coronablog (27 Dec 2020; in Dutch). - read more
  • Michel Walrave and colleagues on the untapped potential of the Coronalert-app in Het Nieuwsblad (27 Dec 2020; in Dutch). - read more
  • De Standaard reports on citizens' increasing trust in the corona approach (Corona Study; 4 Nov 2020; in Dutch) - read more
  • De Tijd reports on increasing trust in the federal government (Corona Study; 4 Nov 2020; in Dutch) - read more
  • Patricia Popelier, Catherine Van De Heyning and colleagues propose to advise government as a legal task force (4 Nov 2020; in Dutch) - read more
  • Patricia Popelier, Catherine Van De Heyning and colleagues call for a corona-law to back restrictions in De Standaard (2 Nov 2020; in Dutch) - read more
  • Patricia Popelier on the legality of corona measures in De Standaard (21 Oct 2020; in Dutch) - read more
  • Patricia Popelier on a legal framework to support the corona measures in De Standaard (20 Oct 2020; in Dutch) - read more
  • Wouter Van Dooren on imposing a late-night curfew in Het Parool (12 Oct 2020; in Dutch) - read more
  • Opinion piece by Patricia Popelier and Catherine Van De Heyning on corona measures and fundamental rights in Knack (10 Aug 2020; in Dutch) - read more
  • Wouter Van Dooren on the relationship between experts and politicians in a radio interview with VRT Radio 1's "De Wereld Vandaag" (24 Jun 2020; in Dutch) - listen here
  • Charlotte De Backer on the reopening of bars and restaurants and eating together as a sign of trust in De Standaard (13 Jun 2020; in Dutch) - read more
  • Steven De Vadder, Wouter Van Dooren en Koen Verhoest's contribution on trust in COVID-19 policy in the University of Antwerp's Coronablog (9 Jun 2020; in Dutch) - read more
  • Wouter Van Dooren on the coronavirus policy in Het Laatste Nieuws "Van 'niets mag, behalve' naar 'alles mag, behalve' - De nieuwe coronafilosofie van de regering" (4 Jun 2020; in Dutch) - read more
  • GOVTRUST in NRC (NL) "Met het virus verdwijnt de harmonie uit België" (3 Jun 2020; in Dutch) - read more
  • GOVTRUST on the importance of political communication during COVID-19 in De Standaard (6 May 2020; in Dutch) - read more
  • GOVTRUST on trust in government communication on corona in Het Nieuwsblad (6 May 2020; in Dutch) - read more
  • Peter Bursens on federalism and the COVID-19 crisis in the Forum of Federations (16 Apr 2020) - read more

Videos

Please find below a number of videos in which GOVTRUST members present their work on trust and the coronavirus crisis.

Trust and the COVID-19 Crisis: Regulation and Compliance in Multi-level Governance

GOVTRUST Annual Symposium 2021

Trust and Vaccination

Koen Verhoest & Sophie Op de Beeck - TiGRE Webinar Series on 'Trust & Regulatory Governance in an Age of Crisis'

Trust and Rule Compliance

Frédérique Six & Monika Glavina - TiGRE Webinar Series on 'Trust & Regulatory Governance in an Age of Crisis'

Naleving van coronamaatregelen door burgers: een kwestie van vertrouwen in de overheid?

Koen Verhoest - Les van de Eeuw: Corona en sociaal-wetenschappelijk onderzoek (doelgroep: leerlingen derde graad secundair)

Het aanpakken van bezorgdheden over de COVID 19 vaccins door gepaste communicatie

Karolien Poels - Les van de Eeuw: Corona en sociaal-wetenschappelijk onderzoek (doelgroep: leerlingen derde graad secundair)