How do people balance civil liberties and public health during a pandemic?
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, unprecedented lockdowns were adopted across the globe. Some countries went further than others. China and South Korea, for example, adopted some of the most severe containment policies, such as forced state quarantines and house-to-house temperature checks. In spring 2020, a team of researchers, including HKS Professor Marcella Alsan, conducted surveys across five Western liberal democracies—France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States—to understand whether stringent policies would be accepted there and how people would view the trade-off between civil liberties and public health. “On average, the concerns that information collected by the government to fight COVID-19 will be misused later was raised,” the researchers write. “Their worries that forgone rights will not be recovered after the crisis also increased.”