Worldviews, trust, and risk perceptions shape public acceptance of COVID-19 public health measures

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2021 Jun 15;118(24):e2100411118. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2100411118.


Because of the outbreak of COVID-19, most countries have implemented measures aimed at reducing the number of infected people. However, these measures only work if they are generally accepted by the public. We conducted a two-wave longitudinal survey in Switzerland (n = 1,223) to study the factors that would influence perceived risks and the acceptance of the measures. Our findings showed that people with individualistic worldviews, high general interpersonal trust, low social trust, a low level of perceived risks, and the conviction that risks other than health risks were neglected had less acceptance of the implemented measures compared with people who held the opposite views on the mentioned variables. The number of infected people declined between survey waves 1 and 2. This desired effect not only reduced people's perceived risks but also decreased their social trust and increased the conviction that other risks were neglected. Finally, the acceptance of the measures declined. Our data also support the idea that reduced risk perceptions and a decline in social trust are important drivers for the reduction in the acceptance of the measures in survey wave 2. Our results suggest that as soon as the measures attain success or the public is tired of the implemented restrictions, public acceptance declines, and it seems difficult to prolong the measures as may be desirable from an epidemiological standpoint. The importance of worldviews and trust for public acceptance of the measures further suggests the necessity of a political discussion about the implemented measures.

Keywords: COVID-19; risk perception; trust; worldviews.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude*
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology
  • COVID-19 / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Perception*
  • Public Health*
  • SARS-CoV-2*
  • Switzerland / epidemiology
  • Trust / psychology*