Explaining variations in state COVID-19 responses: psychological, institutional, and strategic factors in governance and public policy-making

Moshe Maor*, Michael Howlett

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations

Abstract

The fight to curb the spread of COVID-19 underscores the central role that governments play in many policy areas, including public health, and the need to understand the reasons for observed differences in governance responses to the pandemic in different countries and jurisdictions. Drawing on secondary sources and media interviews with prime minister and ministers, the paper demonstrates how examination of a combination of psychological, institutional, and strategic factors operating in policy and governance arenas helps explain the policy and governance choices different governments made in their fight against COVID-19. Psychological factors include elite panic and limited government attention spans while institutional factors include the level of government effectiveness, their degree of freedom to manouevre, levels of social trust, the existence of separate ministries of health and health ministers with a medical background, the extent to which ruling parties are well established, state governors’ actual power vis-à-vis the federal government, as well as a legacy of generous social policy and existent universalistic social programs. Strategic factors include political considerations underlying policy and governance choices when elected executives face deep uncertainty. Focusing on these factors and arenas helps state-centric governance theory produce explanations rather than describe patterns of policy-making.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)228-241
Number of pages14
JournalPolicy Design and Practice
Volume3
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • attention
  • elite decision-making
  • governance
  • overreaction
  • panic
  • policy-making
  • underreaction

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