Democracy in times of the pandemic: explaining the variation of COVID-19 policies across European democracies

Publikation: Beiträge in ZeitschriftenZeitschriftenaufsätzeForschungbegutachtet


  • Sarah Engler
  • Palmo Brunner
  • Romane Loviat
  • Tarik Abou-Chadi
  • Lucas Leemann
  • Andreas Glaser
  • Daniel Kübler

In fighting the spread of COVID-19, the drastic measures undertaken by governments worldwide demonstrate a trade-off between public health and fundamental democratic principles. Yet this behaviour is not consistent across democracies, which motivates this paper to examine why some democracies were willing to constrain individual freedoms and concentrate power more than others during the pandemic’s first wave. Creating two indices to measure the degree to which COVID-19 policies interfere with these democratic principles in 34 European countries, the analyses show that the large variation cannot be solely explained by pandemic-related factors. It is argued that the strong protection of democratic principles already established in ‘normal’ times makes governments more reluctant to opt for restrictive policies. By highlighting how differences in policy responses are attributed to provisions guaranteeing individual liberties, this paper contributes to a better understanding of how democracies handle the democratic dilemma in times of crises.

ZeitschriftWest European Politics
Seiten (von - bis)1077-1102
Anzahl der Seiten26
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 19.09.2021
Extern publiziertJa

Bibliographische Notiz

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the University of Zurich's COVID-19 Seed Fund. The authors would like to thank the two anonymous referees, Andrea Louise Campbell, Rolf Rosenbrock as well as the participants of the panel on ‘COVID-19: Comparing and Explaining Policy Reactions and Political Consequences’ at the 2020 APSA Annual Meeting for critical comments on earlier versions of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.