Political virus. How the Covid-19 pandemic raises approval ratings of world leaders

© kremlin.ru. Vladimir Putin and Emmanuel Macron
Political virus. How the Covid-19 pandemic raises approval ratings of world leaders
26 Мар 2020, 16:05

World leaders became the main beneficiaries of the Covid-19 pandemic. Their approval ratings skyrocketed along with hopes for re-election. Surprisingly, it is not the case for Vladimir Putin of Russia.

Let’s be honest: the majority of political leaders overslept the beginning of the epidemic. Politicians in China, Italy, Britain, the US, Russia and many other countries fell for the desire to pretend that nothing out of the ordinary was happening. They were probably relaxed by the fact that there was no worldwide crisis since 2008. Although most of the current presidents and prime ministers simply weren’t there at the time, even old-timers like Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin reacted slowly and came to realisation of the scale of this disaster a little too late.

Gradually, politicians began waking up from hibernation and taking measures withdifferent degrees of effectiveness. Some managed to control the epidemic, while in other places it is still in its early stages. Nevertheless, those sleepy and clumsy world leaders are winning big in terms of public approval. In the panicking eyes of their constituents, they started to be seen as the only hope for salvation.

For example, just few years ago the Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte seemed almost like an accidental leader of the government, a temporary worker who did not have much time left. Today, his approval rating reached record 71 per cent. The Italian prime ministers didn’t enjoy such great support for the last ten years.

94 per cent of Italians approve Conte’s government attempts to control the epidemic. This kind of support usually allows one to win elections in Central Asia. Interestingly, the credibility of the EU institutions against this background has decreased: only 35 per cent of Italians approve of it, and the vast majority believes that Italy is better at dealing with the Covid-19 than its EU neighbours. This may raise the question about the united Europe’s future, in which Vladimir Putin obviously shows an interest by sending humanitarian and military assistance to the Italians.

The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson repeats Giuseppe Conte’s path, but does it in his usual manner: quickly and fussy. A week ago, 43 per cent of Brits approved his activities, but in just a few days his rating increased to 55 per cent. The reason is simple: Johnson’s government finally rejected its reckless plan to develop the nation’s herd immunity. The new British plan: everyone must stay at home, go out once a day, keep distance from everyone. These draconian measures are in line with the World Health Organization experts’ recommendations and give voters hope that the crisis will be resolved soon. Time will tell how Boris Johnson’s level of support will be affected by his own Covid-19 diagnosis.

The U. S. President Donald Trump, who has never had many fans outside his nuclear audience of ultra-conservatives and chauvinists, also got a chance at re-election thanks to the coronavirus. In recent days, his approval rating been steadily growing (although it still does not exceed 50%). Americans approve of belated government actions and await the distribution of financial assistance. Paradoxically, a nation in which the word «socialism» is still considered an obscenity loudly demands government’s support and the distribution of money: $ 1,200 per person.

Even the French President Emmanuel Macron is doing well: for the first time in two years his job is approved by more than a half of the nation. Merci, coronavirus!

Russian President Vladimir Putin, as always, goes his own way. While the rest of the world leaders are enjoying the newly awakened public love, Putin is left alone with a falling rating. Surveys shows that the previous magic in relations between Russians and their overdue president no longer exists. Perhaps this explains Putin’s chaotic address to the nation with a report about the measures he plans on taking to combat the epidemic and the financial crisis: distribution of 5,000 rubles per child and imposing new taxes on those who managed to assemble a million rubles in their savings accounts. The Russian president is simply not used to living in a world where people do not worship him. His only hope today is coronavirus. The war against it will write everything off.

Elia Kabanov is a science writer covering past, present, and future of technology. 

Follow him on Twitter: @metkere

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