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Creating compliance in crisis: messages, messengers, and masking up in Britain

Anderson, Chris ORCID: 0000-0003-3198-4172 and Hobolt, Sara (2022) Creating compliance in crisis: messages, messengers, and masking up in Britain. West European Politics, 46 (2). 300 - 323. ISSN 0140-2382

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Identification Number: 10.1080/01402382.2022.2091863


How do governments ensure public compliance with protective policies that restrict individual liberties during a crisis? In this article, the British public’s reaction to mask mandates during the Covid-19 pandemic is examined. We argue that providing information about health risks makes people more willing to comply and that the effectiveness of the information depends on the source. This argument is tested with the help of aggregate public opinion and individual-level experimental data collected in the UK in 2020 and we find that the British public adapted its willingness to wear a mask rapidly and in line with government regulation. Moreover, results from a survey experiment show that simply providing information about risk is sufficient to elevate people’s willingness to wear masks. Interestingly, there is no clear partisan divide in the willingness to comply, suggesting that government messages about risk and responsibility encourage individuals to make sacrifices in times of crisis regardless of which party they support.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2022 The Authors
Divisions: European Institute
Subjects: J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe) > JN101 Great Britain
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Date Deposited: 22 Jun 2022 14:15
Last Modified: 24 May 2024 05:33

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