Trust and transparency in times of crisis: Results from an online survey during the first wave (April 2020) of the COVID-19 epidemic in the UK.

Enria, Luisa, Waterlow, Naomi, Rogers, Nina Trivedy, Brindle, Hannah ORCID: 0000-0003-1684-5801, Lal, Sham, Eggo, Rosalind M, Lees, Shelley and Roberts, Chrissy H
(2021) Trust and transparency in times of crisis: Results from an online survey during the first wave (April 2020) of the COVID-19 epidemic in the UK. PloS one, 16 (2). e0239247-e0239247.

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<h4>Background</h4>The success of a government's COVID-19 control strategy relies on public trust and broad acceptance of response measures. We investigated public perceptions of the UK government's COVID-19 response, focusing on the relationship between trust and perceived transparency, during the first wave (April 2020) of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom.<h4>Methods</h4>Anonymous survey data were collected (2020-04-06 to 2020-04-22) from 9,322 respondents, aged 20+ using an online questionnaire shared primarily through Facebook. We took an embedded-mixed-methods approach to data analysis. Missing data were imputed via multiple imputation. Binomial & multinomial logistic regression were used to detect associations between demographic characteristics and perceptions or opinions of the UK government's response to COVID-19. Structural topic modelling (STM), qualitative thematic coding of sub-sets of responses were then used to perform a thematic analysis of topics that were of interest to key demographic groups.<h4>Results</h4>Most respondents (95.1%) supported government enforcement of behaviour change. While 52.1% of respondents thought the government was making good decisions, differences were apparent across demographic groups, for example respondents from Scotland had lower odds of responding positively than respondents in London. Higher educational levels saw decreasing odds of having a positive opinion of the government response and decreasing household income associated with decreasing positive opinion. Of respondents who thought the government was not making good decisions 60% believed the economy was being prioritised over people and their health. Positive views on government decision-making were associated with positive views on government transparency about the COVID-19 response. Qualitative analysis about perceptions of government transparency highlighted five key themes: (1) the justification of opacity due to the condition of crisis, (2) generalised mistrust of politics, (3) concerns about the role of scientific evidence, (4) quality of government communication and (5) questions about political decision-making processes.<h4>Conclusion</h4>Our study suggests that trust is not homogenous across communities, and that generalised mistrust, concerns about the transparent use and communication of evidence and insights into decision-making processes can affect perceptions of the government's pandemic response. We recommend targeted community engagement, tailored to the experiences of different groups and a new focus on accountability and openness around how decisions are made in the response to the UK COVID-19 pandemic.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Humans, Attitude, Trust, Communicable Disease Control, Public Policy, Socioeconomic Factors, Surveys and Questionnaires, United Kingdom, COVID-19
Divisions: Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences > Institute of Infection, Veterinary and Ecological Sciences
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 17 Jun 2021 09:17
Last Modified: 18 Jan 2023 22:34
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0239247
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