FEATURE24 July 2020

How do different cultures handle crisis uncertainty?

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While Covid-19 is a global crisis, how we respond to uncertainty and anxiety has cultural differences. By Ipsos Mori’s Oliver Sweet.


Governments across the world leaned heavily on wartime analogies as they responded to the public’s search for reassurance during Covid-19. French president Emmanuel Macron stated that the country was ‘at war’ several times in a 30-minute speech, while New York governor Andrew Cuomo said: “Ventilators are to this war what bombs were to World War II.” But this isn’t a war, it’s a pandemic. So why are leaders using this combative language?

Whether intentional or otherwise, the use of wartime language gives people a reassuring sense that we’ve been here before. It offers the idea that society has faced this kind of ‘evil’ previously – and because wartime history is written by the victorious, it acts as a rallying call that unites people, helping them believe that they will ‘win’ this time, too. However, uncertainty has grown as the crisis continues. Have governments made the right decisions? When will lockdown end? Will a vaccine be produced? Why don’t medical ...