New research from WA-based Curtin University has found a dramatic increase in people’s trust in government in Australia and New Zealand as a result of the pandemic.
The team surveyed people in both countries in July 2020 and found confidence in public health scientists to also be high and for this trust to be manifested in higher usage of government Covid phone apps.
Results of the study have been published in the Australian Journal of Public Administration.
Dramatic increase in trust in governments
Lead researcher, Professor Shaun Goldfinch of the John Curtin Institute of Public Policy at the university, said the management of the pandemic by authorities led to a dramatic increase in trust in the two governments.
“Using an online panel, we surveyed a representative sample of 500 people each in Australia and New Zealand, several months into the pandemic and found a high level of confidence, with around 80 percent of respondents agreeing government was generally trustworthy,” Goldfinch said.
“Around three-quarters of those surveyed agreed management of the pandemic had increased their trust in government and more than 85 percent of respondents had confidence that public health scientists worked in the public interest,” he added.
“We also found this trust and confidence strongly predicted Covid phone app use, largely through convincing people that the app was beneficial.”
Trust up by around 30% versus 2009 study
Professor Goldfinch said confidence in government had increased in Australia and New Zealand from a similar study in 2009, with 80 percent and 83 percent of people, respectively, agreeing government is generally trustworthy. In contrast, the 2009 figures were only 49 percent and 53 percent, respectively.
“Because the research was conducted during a global pandemic, the findings may not signal a long‐term change in trust in government, which may return to previous levels when, and if, the crisis passes,” he stated.
“Regardless, trust in government could be viewed as a ‘reservoir’ that can be drawn upon when needed so that citizens are willing to take what might be unusual and unprecedented actions when their trust is high – including the use of government apps. As such, trust remains key to effective government, particularly during crises.”