They’re in this together … Italians pose little opposition to COVID-19 measures

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Italians largely acquiescent to COVID-19 containment measures

An online survey of 1000 Italians at the end of March has shown that agreement with the measures taken by the government to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus is generally very high. Measures such as the school closing, the travel ban, or the quarantine of people entering the country have been accepted by more than 90 per cent of the Italians. The least accepted measure is the use of apps for the surveillance of the public, but it is still supported by almost 60 per cent of Italians.

Figure 1: Agreement with prevention measures

Italians not only agree with the measures to prevent the spread of the virus, they also have complied with these measures to an extraordinary extent. Moreover, the results indicate that compliance with the measures is not a question of political orientation. People from all political camps comply with the measures to largely the same extent.

Figure 2: Compliance with prevention measures

A late start

If the measures have been generally very well accepted and also followed, large parts of the Italian population criticise that they have not been adopted in time. Except for the school closing and the deferral of elections, rather sizeable majorities of the Italians think that the measures against the spread of the virus have been adopted too late. This is most clearly the case concerning the availability of masks and tests, but it also applies to all the other measures such as the travel ban or the quarantine of people entering the country.

The critique with regard to the timing of the measures is highly partisan. The critique that the government did not react fast enough is more widespread among the adherents of the opposition, the overwhelming majority of whom consider that the government has been too late with at least some of the measures. Among the adherents of the governing parties, this criticism is less widespread, but even among the partisans of the left in government, only a bit less than 30 per cent have mentioned no critique about timing at all.

Politicised evaluations of health and economic measures

In their overall assessment of the health and economic measures, a third of Italians (34 per cent) consider the government’s public health response insufficient and a majority (55 per cent) evaluates the economic response as insufficient. This critique is again a function of one’s political orientation. Thus, the adherents of the parties in the opposition are much more critical in both respects than the adherents of the parties in government, with the non-voters closer to the parties in government. But even 46 per cent of voters who support the left-wing parties in government and 50 per cent of the M5S voters are critical of the economic measures taken by the government.

Figure 3: Political orientation and policy evaluation


Political skeptics as policy skeptics

The critique of the measures taken by the government also depends on whether the person trusts the political elite or not. People with low political trust are the most critical of the government’s health and economic measures, largely independently of whether they belong to the government camp or the opposition. Conversely, people with high political trust are the least critical of the government’s policies. It is the people with medium political trust, whose assessment of the government’s policies depends on whether or not their party is in government.

Leadership in the balance

The overall satisfaction with the government at the end of March heavily depends on one’s satisfaction with the government’s health and economic policy in the face of the Coronavirus. People who think that the government’s measures in both of these policy domains have been adequate are most satisfied with the government: no less than 84 per cent among them are satisfied with the government. Among those who are dissatisfied with one or the other type of measure, satisfaction with the government drops to roughly two-thirds. Among those who think that both types of measures were insufficient, only one fifth is satisfied with the government in general.

Little room for disagreement on prevention                                                            

National media and social media have not hesitated to expose rule-breaking and non-compliance with COVID-19 containment measures in Italy. Data, however, demonstrate that people in Italy indeed are largely going along with the restrictions and procedures implemented by the regional and national governments.


Hanspeter Kriesi is Stein Rokkan Professor of Comparative Politics in the Department of Political and Social Sciences and an associate scholar with the Robert Schuman Centre’s European Governance and Politics Programme.

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