Regulation and Distrust During the Covid Pandemic: Evidence from Russia

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The SARS-Covid pandemic has led governments in all countries to introduce an array of regulations. We take advantage of Russia’s diverse regional responses to the Covid crises to study the demand for regulation. Following Aghion et al. (2010), we expect that in more civic environments individuals expect others to consider the externalities of their behavior and therefore demand less regulation. We test the argument by drawing on a novel online survey of more than 23,000 respondents in 61 Russian regions. We find that higher social trust is related to less demand for mask wearing, self-isolation requirements, and other forms of Covid-related regulation. However, we also find that trust in state institutions is associated with greater demand for regulation and that these forms of trust in government can attenuate the negative effect of individual trust on the demand for regulation. Even very trusting individuals demand more regulation at high levels of trust in government. By examining how social trust and trust in government interact, we seek to build on Aghion et al (2010) and offer a more nuanced treatment of the relationship between trust and demand for regulation.

Discussant: Mikheil Kechaqmadze (Oxford)