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New IRI Report Reveals European Perceptions on COVID-19

March 24, 2021

Washington, D.C. – A new report by the International Republican Institute (IRI), in partnership with the Alliance for Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE) and the European Liberal Forum (ELF), measures European sentiment on COVID-19 and its fallout across the region. Conducted between August and September 2020, the surveys gauge public opinion on the virus. 

“These findings offer a rare glimpse into the prevailing mood on COVID-19 throughout Europe,” said IRI Senior Director for Transatlantic Strategy Jan Surotchak. “From the report, we can draw five key lessons on Europeans’ perception of the pandemic, its impact and those involved in the global response.”

The surveys indicate that the level of concern over COVID-19 in each European country coincides with the intensity of the virus. For example, Europe’s hardest hit countries over the spring and summer – namely Spain (93 percent) and Italy (86 percent) – possess the highest shares of people anxious over its continued spread. Countries on the periphery of the European Union (EU) have more favorable views of China and Russia’s role in the pandemic, underscoring the prevalence of disinformation and foreign authoritarian influence in these areas. China specifically had highest efficiency scores in Italy (36 percent), Spain (38 percent), Austria (34 percent), Hungary (33 percent), Bulgaria (33 percent) and Lithuania (40 percent).

The surveys also found there is little consensus on the origin of the virus, with most Europeans evenly split between three different perceptions. Twenty-one percent argue it was developed in a lab by the Chinese government, 31 percent think it occurred naturally in China, and 21 percent did not know the origin or preferred not to answer. The lack of agreement on the pandemic’s origin suggests a level of confusion on the virus that is likely the product of disinformation.

To learn more about these takeaways and the other key lessons learned, read the report here.

Methodology

The surveys were conducted on behalf of IRI’s Center for Insights in Survey Research, ALDE and ELF by IPSOS between August 24 and September 12, 2020. The data was collected through online surveys in 19 different European countries and featured a questionnaire developed by George Mason University scholar Justin Gest.  

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