• Research shows most people approve of how their country tackled COVID-19.
  • Respondents that trusted other people were less likely to see divisions in their own country.
  • Almost 60% of people think greater international cooperation would have reduced the number of cases in their own country.

How well did your country respond to the pandemic?

It’s a subjective question, the answers to which are reflected in new research recording the diversity of opinion around the world.


Spoiler alert: globally, more people approved of their own country’s response than disapproved.

A Pew Research Center survey of more than 14,000 adults across 14 advanced economies in Europe, Asia, North America and Australia, found 73% thought their own country had done a good job of tackling the coronavirus outbreak.

It’s a matter of trust

Respondents’ attitude to their own country’s pandemic response – and its impact on national unity – were linked to feelings of trust in others, the survey found.

Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
With the exception of the UK and the US, countries believed they handled the pandemic well.
Image: Pew Research Center

Denmark recorded the highest government response approval rating of the countries surveyed (95%), followed closely by Australia.

Support for their government’s actions was also shown in countries like South Korea and Canada, along with European nations like Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Sweden, where more than two-thirds of respondents approved.

But a different picture emerged in the US and UK, where delayed action to combat COVID-19 received less emphatic support. More than half of those polled in each country said they thought the pandemic had been handled poorly.

Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
Americans stand out in their belief that they're more divided as a result of the pandemic.
Image: Pew Research Center

Divided or united?

Opinions were also split on whether the pandemic had increased the sense of national unity.

Again, Denmark proved to have the most optimistic outlook with 72% of respondents believing the country more united following the virus outbreak. In Canada, Sweden, South Korea and Australia, over half of respondents believed their country was more united.

Despite approving of their country’s response to the pandemic, in European nations like Spain, Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands, a majority of people thought their country was more divided post-lockdown.

In the US, in an era of divisive politics and with no coordinated response to the pandemic in place, more than three-quarters of respondents believed their country was now more divided than before the pandemic.

The perceived strength of national unity is linked to trust in others, the report found. As a general principle, people who thought others couldn’t be trusted were more likely to see divisions in their own country.

National divisions were most pronounced in France, where almost two-thirds of respondents who think people can’t be trusted also see the country as more divided than before the pandemic.

Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
Prevailing view that more international cooperation would have reduced coronavirus cases.
Image: Pew Research Center

The role of international cooperation

But did this perceived drop in national cohesion prevent countries seeking international help to combat the spread of the virus? And would cross-border cooperation have resulted in fewer cases?

For the majority of respondents, the answer was yes.

Across the 14 countries surveyed, 59% of respondents believed greater international cooperation would have reduced the number of coronavirus cases in their own country. In Europe, this average increases to 62%, with seven of the nine countries surveyed expressing belief in the benefits of international cooperation, which was strongest in countries like Belgium, the UK and Spain.

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What is the World Economic Forum doing to manage emerging risks from COVID-19?

The first global pandemic in more than 100 years, COVID-19 has spread throughout the world at an unprecedented speed. At the time of writing, 4.5 million cases have been confirmed and more than 300,000 people have died due to the virus.

As countries seek to recover, some of the more long-term economic, business, environmental, societal and technological challenges and opportunities are just beginning to become visible.

To help all stakeholders – communities, governments, businesses and individuals understand the emerging risks and follow-on effects generated by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with Marsh and McLennan and Zurich Insurance Group, has launched its COVID-19 Risks Outlook: A Preliminary Mapping and its Implications - a companion for decision-makers, building on the Forum’s annual Global Risks Report.

The report reveals that the economic impact of COVID-19 is dominating companies’ risks perceptions.

Companies are invited to join the Forum’s work to help manage the identified emerging risks of COVID-19 across industries to shape a better future. Read the full COVID-19 Risks Outlook: A Preliminary Mapping and its Implications report here, and our impact story with further information.

Outside of Europe, support for international cooperation was also notable in the US (58%) and South Korea (59%), according to the report.

In Denmark, however, 78% of people thought international cooperation would not have reduced the number of cases. A majority of people in Australia, Germany, Canada and Japan also held little store in international cooperation to tackle the pandemic.

The World Bank, in collaboration with the World Economic Forum and other stakeholders, held a virtual roundtable to devise an action plan to facilitate international cooperations and communications to better tackle the pandemic.


International cooperation is a key element of producing an effective vaccine at scale to protect the global population against COVID-19, according to Chatham House. By working together, researchers, business leaders, policy-makers and other stakeholders can more quickly overcome scientific, regulatory and market challenges to developing and distributing a vaccine.