Under or Out of Government Control? The Effects of Individual Mental Health and Political Views on the Attribution of Responsibility for COVID-19 Incidence Rates


  • Krystyna Skarżyńska
  • Beata Urbańska
  • Piotr Radkiewicz


The paper shows the role of mental health and political views in attributing responsibility for COVID-19 incidence rates to the government and factors beyond government control. Authors' hypotheses draw on the classic and new versions of attribution theories, on literature from political psychology about the process of blaming the government for natural catastrophes, and also on local socio-political specifics (political polarization). The empirical data used in the article come from the survey carried out on-line via a professional research panel at the turn of May and June 2020, after about three months of lockdown, and during the presidential election campaign. The research sample included 850 Polish adults (aged 18 to 84) fully diversified in terms of gender, age, and education (the sample was representative for the Polish population in terms of respondents' place of residence and the country's region). To measure attribution of responsibility, the authors developed an 8-item instrument. Half of the instrument’s items indicate government and state institutions' responsibility and half describe circumstances not related to the government. The results showed that the respondents tended to attribute more responsibility for COVID-19 effects to the government than other ("non-government") factors. In explaining the government's responsibility, political views and party preferences play an incomparably more significant role than mental health symptoms. The authors interpret these results as the effect of attitudinal and affective political polarization of Polish society.