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Public acceptability of containment measures during the COVID-19 pandemic in Italy: how institutional confidence and specific political support matter

Simona Guglielmi (Department of Social and Political Sciences, University of Milan, Milan, Italy)
Giulia M. Dotti Sani (Department of Social and Political Sciences, University of Milan, Milan, Italy)
Francesco Molteni (Department of Social and Political Sciences, University of Milan, Milan, Italy)
Ferruccio Biolcati (Department of Social and Political Sciences, University of Milan, Milan, Italy)
Antonio M. Chiesi (Department of Social and Political Sciences, University of Milan, Milan, Italy)
Riccardo Ladini (Department of Social and Political Sciences, University of Milan, Milan, Italy)
Marco Maraffi (Department of Social and Political Sciences, University of Milan, Milan, Italy)
Andrea Pedrazzani (Department of Social and Political Sciences, University of Milan, Milan, Italy)
Cristiano Vezzoni (Department of Social and Political Sciences, University of Milan, Milan, Italy)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 21 October 2020

Issue publication date: 2 December 2020

1369

Abstract

Purpose

This article contributes to a better theoretical and empiric understanding of mixed results in the literature investigating the relationship between institutional confidence and adherence to recommended measures during a pandemic.

Design/methodology/approach

The article relies on structural equation models (SEMs) based on data from ResPOnsE COVID-19, a rolling cross-section (RCS) survey carried out in Italy from April to June 2020.

Findings

The authors’ findings show the existence of multiple pathways of confidence at the national and local level. Confidence in the institutions is positively associated with support for the performance of the Prime Minister and that of the regional institutions in the North West, which in turn, raises the likelihood of following the restrictive measures. However, in the same regions, a good appraisal of the regional system's performance also had a direct positive effect on the perception of being safe from the virus, decreasing adherence to the restrictive measures. Finally, the direct effect of confidence in the institutions on compliance is negative.

Social implications

The result enlightens the crucial role both of national and local institutions in promoting or inhibiting adherence to restrictive measures during a pandemic and suggests that “one size fits all” measures for increasing overall institutional confidence might not be sufficient to reach the desired goal of achieving compliance in pandemic times.

Originality/value

The authors theorize and test three cognitive mechanisms – (1) the “cascade of confidence”; (2) the “paradox of support” and (3) the “paradox of confidence” – to account for both the positive and negative links between measures of political support and public acceptability of COVID-19 containment measures.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This article is the result of a joint effort of the SPS TREND Lab. The first author of this article is Simona Guglielmi who, together with Giulia M. Dotti Sani and Francesco Molteni, contributed to the design and implementation of the research, to the analysis of the results and to the writing of the manuscript. Ferruccio Biolcati, Antonio M. Chiesi, Riccardo Ladini, Marco Maraffi, Andrea Pedrazzani, and Cristiano Vezzoni (head of the Lab) contributed to the design and implementation of the survey and provided critical feedback on the manuscript. The authors would like to acknowledge SPS TREND Lab (https://spstrend.unimi.it/en/, Department of Social and Political Sciences, University of Milan), which developed and funded the Italian survey ResPOnsE Covid-19.

Citation

Guglielmi, S., Dotti Sani, G.M., Molteni, F., Biolcati, F., Chiesi, A.M., Ladini, R., Maraffi, M., Pedrazzani, A. and Vezzoni, C. (2020), "Public acceptability of containment measures during the COVID-19 pandemic in Italy: how institutional confidence and specific political support matter", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 40 No. 9/10, pp. 1069-1085. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSSP-07-2020-0342

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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