BASEES Annual Conference 2022

Saving Lives or Saving the Economy? Support for the Incumbent during the COVID-19 Pandemic in Russia

Fri8  Apr03:00pm(20 mins)
Umney Theatre


Kirill Chmel, Aigul Klimova, Nikita Savin


During the pandemic of the novel coronavirus the World Health Organization called for people “to treat the decisions about where they go, what they do and who they meet with as life-and-death decisions – because they are”. Governments of various countries also had to decide how to respond to the pandemic and which restrictions to impose. While the benefits of such measures as quarantine and shelter-in-place policies have been found to slow down the spread of the disease, it was also shown that these policies cost many countries severe economic contractions. The goal of the study is to reveal if there is a trade-off between saving lives and saving the economy for the incumbent to get higher political support during the COVID-19 pandemic in Russia. Based on two experimental studies with 2x2 factorial design with the factors of ‘saving lives’ and ‘saving the economy,’ we measure if individuals are more willing to support the governor, extend the governor's powers, and vote for the governor depending on the policy. Though saving the economy had a more consistent impact on all three measures and voting in particular, both saving lives and saving the economy encouraged support of the incumbent and their policy. As we expected, saving the economy had a larger effect on voting than saving lives. The choice of the Russian voters is more economy-driven which is consistent with the literature on economic voting and the economy-oriented policy of the Russian authorities.