RAPID: Collaborative Research: COVID-19, Crises, and Support for the Rule of Law

Project: Research project

Project Details


The rule of law is at the foundation of modern liberal democracy. Crises like the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, however, pose a challenge to this long-standing norm that buttresses modern democracies the world over. In the midst of a crisis, a person's support for the rule of law is tested as their fundamental concern for the health, safety, and welfare of themselves, their families, and their friends is pitted against an abstract belief that the government 'check all the boxes' before carrying out potentially lifesaving policies. In these situations, one's desire for decisive government action may overwhelm, and subsequently lead to a decline in, one's commitment to abstract democratic principles like the rule of law. Consequently, evaluating how crises affect support for fundamental democratic norms is critical for understanding their impact on the health and stability of the liberal democratic order.

This project leverages the COVID-19 outbreak to examine this relationship and determine (a) whether governmental responses to crises affect citizens' support for the rule of law; (b) whether citizens' faith in government efforts is buttressed or undermined in response to elite and expert cues; and (c) whether citizens' attitudes change after a crisis has dissipated. Each of these theoretical aims is tied to one of three unique features of the research design, which relies upon surveys of European democracies. First, to examine the effects of governmental responses, the project will make collect survey data on support for the rule of law across four Western democracies in April 2020: Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Second, an original panel survey in Germany will enable the evaluation of changes to individual-level rule of law judgments in the short, medium, and long term. Lastly, embedded survey experiments will provide causal evidence on how elite and expert cues affect both the acceptance of policies and support for key aspects of the rule of law like compliance with laws and support for judicial constraints on executive and legislative power. Findings from each part of the project will provide insights into the individual-level dynamics crises activate in citizens' relationship with democratic principles.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date4/15/203/31/21


  • National Science Foundation: $24,087.00


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.