Democratic institutions, in particular federalism, can impact the speed and degree of policy responses protecting citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic, even when national leaders share public rhetoric that is non-conducive to speedy policy response, says an international group of researchers led by Olga Shvetsova, professor of political science and economics at Binghamton University, State University of New York. 

“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic represents an existential threat to societies around the world. There has been considerable variation in both rhetoric and policy responses among the many national governments,” says the researchers. “Comparing the policies of the United States and United Kingdom with the backdrop of their national leaders’ public stances, having multiple decision points due to the redundancy inherent in federalism increases the chances that a citizen will receive the “correct” policy, even when policy-makers at some levels of government put forth “wrong” policy responses. 

The researchers pointed out that while President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued policy responses that downplayed the severity of COVID-19, state and municipal authorities stepped in with the “right” responses. 

“Systems with greater policy authority redundancies -- greater jurisdictional overlap in policy-making -- have a built in advantage,” says the researchers.

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