Two faces of Covid-19 impact:
the pandemic ignites fear, but boosts progressive ideals and calls for inclusive economic growth

Measuring the pandemic’s impact on social values, emotions and priorities in 24 countries

The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented global health crisis. The impact of the pandemic is visible in many realms like the economy, leisure, mobility, culture, work, social relations and psychological life. But how are people reacting? What is happening ''beneath the surface''? What is the impact on people’s values and emotions? Today we are presenting a unique in-depth trend survey conducted in 24 countries that measured the change in outlook of the same group of people: their initial outlook, right before the pandemic hit early in 2020 and their outlook in November 2020. This is the first study of its kind, measuring trends among the same people in Q1 and Q4 of 2020 on such a large scale. 

For this project, Ronald Inglehart, Founding President of the World Values Survey Foundation, and Martijn Lampert, Co-founder and Research Director at the international research agency Glocalities, joined hands to track potential changes in people’s values as a result of the pandemic. The survey was conducted in 24 countries. Early in 2020, right before lockdown measures were put into place in most countries, Glocalities conducted an annual international survey on social values and lifestyles. Because the Glocalities’ study made use of online interviews, it enabled us to reinterview the same individuals in November 2020 in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Therefore this allowed us to research the basic values of our respondents before and after the pandemic struck. This is a significantly more robust methodology for tracking changes than comparing the results of two separate representative samples, as most trend studies do. A total of 8,761 respondents from 24 countries were interviewed twice. The study was conducted in the following countries: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, UK, USA & Vietnam. 

THE TWO FACES OF COVID-19 PANDEMIC IMPACT ON VALUES

Over the past four decades, Ronald Inglehart has developed a theory on how peoples’ beliefs and values change, and this theory has been tested and verified by using data from recurrent surveys in countries containing 90 percent of the world’s population. He finds that threats to one’s survival tend to make people become more authoritarian and xenophobic, while secure conditions encourage a more open, tolerant outlook. In this new study Inglehart and Lampert examined the impact of a unique case—the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The results reveal that impact of the COVID pandemic has two faces: 

  1. On one hand the COVID-19 pandemic clearly threatens people’s survival and the results of our 24-nation panel survey show considerable evidence to support this. People have become more afraid, hostile and upset. They feel let down by society and increasingly feel that they have no perspective. Positive emotions and hedonism have gone down and people feel that life has gotten worse in many areas, including mental and physical health, joy of living, finances, social life, work life, personal life and trust in humanity. As a result of the COVID-19 crisis people increasingly focus on health, vitality and taking precautions.

  2. On the other hand, the COVID-19 pandemic has a unique mitigating feature: the strict quarantines and lockdowns have severely limited freedom of movement and direct human contact. Both have been sorely missed. As these factors became increasingly scarce, they simultaneously became more highly valued, leading to greater emphasis on social solidarity, equality, community, self-determination and freedom. The pandemic and the economic crisis it has brought on have led to an increased focus on free individual choice and the non-material aspects of life. At the same time support for patriarchy and law and order have decreased. People are progressively calling for inclusive growth and for reducing the gap between rich and the poor.

Overall, the impact of the pandemic has had a sobering effect on people, igniting pessimism and worries, but at the same time has caused them to re-evaluate their priorities in life, emphasizing more communitarian values. 

YOUNG ADULTS HIT HARD BY THE CRISIS BECOME LESS OBEDIENT

The results show that young adults (18-35) have been most severely hit by the pandemic, showing a deteriorating mental health, increasing pessimism, hostility, and worries about unemployment and the economy. Young people-- even more than older ones-- call for more income equality. This reflects the fact that they face a bleak reality which does not appear to improve. Not only are the prospects dismal for anyone now entering the job market, but the long-term outlook is degenerating because advanced-knowledge societies appear to have ‘winner-takes-all’ economies.

In recent decades, the economies of these societies have grown impressively, but the gains have gone almost entirely to the top 30 percent, then to the top 20 percent, then to the top 10 percent and more and more often to the top one percent. If left to the capitalist market, this trend will only continue—unless governments intervene with policies that allocate some of the growing resources to create jobs that benefit society as a whole: healthcare, education, environmental protection, infrastructure and research and development. With a gradually spreading awareness of this problem, the trend survey shows that young adults are becoming less respectful of authority in general, with decreasing acceptance of patriarchal authority.

9 TRENDS IGNITING CHANGE

We found the following nine (international) values trends, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and crisis: 

  1. Rising fear and pessimism
  2. Rising focus on postmaterialism and freedom
  3. Declining focus on patriarchy and law and order
  4. Rising support for emancipation and equality
  5. Rising focus on sharing and community
  6. Declining focus on hedonism, novelty and beauty
  7. Increased focus on health, vitality and taking precautions
  8. Ecological concerns rising, but less of a priority in practice
  9. Rising emphasis on inclusive economic growth

Each of these trends is described in full detail in our report. Comparisons are also drawn between trends among age categories as well as in advanced and developing economies. The report can be downloaded on the right-hand side.

Media impact

In collaboration with the Reuters foundation we have provided an exclusive interview which can be found here.

This interview has also been published in the following countries: 

Africa: AllAfrica
Australia
: Sight magazine
Bangladesh: Bhaka Tribune
Brazil
: Estadão
Canada: National post
China
: China Daily
Cyprus: Cyprus News
Greece: Efsyn (The Editor’s newspaper); Euro2day
India: The Economic Times / India Times
Indonesia
: CNBC Indonesia
Malaysia: The Star Malaysia
Japan: Japan Today
Romania: Economica
South Africa: BusinessLive
Taiwan: Radio Taiwan International
United States: The Straits Times; Devdiscourse; University of Michigan, Center for Political Studies; Financial Times column

Would you like to know more?

For more information about the study, please contact Martijn Lampert.




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Martijn Lampert

Research Director

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