Who Governs? The COVID-19 Pandemic, Trust and Evaluations of National and Local Government

The coronavirus pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges for governments around the world. These challenges have necessitated national policy responses such as lockdowns and government funding to avoid mass unemployment. However, national government responses have varied along with the numbers of cases and numbers of deaths and local lockdowns (e.g., tier systems in the UK and France), the responsibilities given to regional and local governments, and the divisions these circumstances have raised between national and sub-national identities and interests. In this paper, we explore this variation with a focus on trust in national and local government in England. Previous research has suggested the pandemic enhanced approval of governments, but this was both at the earliest stages and does not tell us whether this was reflected in perceptions of government in general, i.e., of national and local government also, or was reserved for the national government response. Our findings are based on three waves of a panel survey of English respondents conducted in July (5000 respondents), August (a snap survey of 800 respondents from Wave 1, half of whom had just been put under local lockdown), and October/November 2020 (3600 respondents). Our study contributes to the literature on trust in national and local government, over time, by clarifying the interplay of individual-level and contextual influences in terms of decentralised policy measures and the numbers of cases and deaths locally. It also sheds light on the impact of devolved government, e.g., metro-mayors, in England.