JUDGED BY death tolls alone, neither America nor Britain has managed the coronavirus pandemic particularly well. In Britain public-health authorities have recorded more than 42,000 covid-19 deaths. The excess death rate—the number of deaths above the historical average adjusted for population—is the world’s highest (though not all countries report the required data).
In America the death toll has climbed to more than 116,000. Yet these grim tallies have not stopped either country’s leader from boasting about their virus-fighting achievements. Boris Johnson, Britain’s prime minister, has promised a “world-beating” test-and-trace system, though the current system may miss three-quarters of new cases. Donald Trump has described America as “the world leader” in tackling the virus.
Citizens seem to hold a much dimmer view. According to a survey released this week by Dalia Research and the Alliance of Democracies Foundation, just 58% of Britons are satisfied with their government’s handling of the pandemic. In America the figure is even lower, at 53%. The survey, which asked 124,000 people in 53 countries about their government’s response to the crisis, found that 70% of respondents gave their leaders a good rating.
Asian governments tended to receive higher marks; Latin American countries lower ones. Unsurprisingly, opinions tend to be inversely related to death tolls. In Brazil, where President Jair Bolsonaro dismisses the danger of the disease, a mere 34% approve of the official response. In France and Spain, where fatalities number in the tens of thousands, most people are also disappointed. In Greece, Taiwan and Ireland, which suffered relatively low rates of infection, almost nine in ten respondents are happy with their leaders’ efforts.
Ratings of foreign governments were even less favourable. When survey respondents around the world were asked about China’s response to the pandemic, just 62% rated it as good. Asked about America’s response, only 34% rated it positively. This view is widely shared: of the 53 countries surveyed, only respondents in Japan (which has its own quarrelsome relationship with China) and America itself say Mr Trump has dealt with the pandemic better than his counterparts in Beijing.
The pandemic is far from over, of course, and these opinions may change in the coming months. Though Mr Xi received near-universal support from his subjects (95% rated the Chinese response as good), a recent outbreak in Beijing, where more than 130 new cases have been reported in recent days, has sparked fears of a second wave in the Chinese capital. Parts of the city are already back in lockdown and transport links have been cut off. This crisis could last years. Even governments deemed by their people to have done a good job so far know that it is still far too early to evaluate their response.