Crisis Management and Government Performance: The Impact of Leader’s Impressions on Evaluations of Government Response to Covid-19
Amid the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, how do the Taiwanese public evaluate the performance of the United States’ and Chinese governments in handling the pandemic? How should people make judgments when the international situation and information about the coronavirus disease keep changing? Using “image theory as its research framework, this study explores whether the Taiwanese public’s impressions of U.S. and Chinese leaders and China’s military threat toward Taiwan affect their perceptions of the U.S. and China governments’ responses to Covid-19. We construct three variables: impression of U.S. leaders, impression of Chinese leaders, and enemy image. We utilize the 2020 China Image Survey and an “ordered logit model” to probe the effects of the leaders’ impressions and military threat when evaluating a government’s response. The findings reveal that Taiwanese people who have a better impression of a country’s leaders are more likely to rate that country’s government’s performance more positively; after removing the effect of the military threat, people who are fond of China tend to evaluate the Chinese government’s response more positively than that of the U.S. government. The results largely conﬁrm the predictions of image theory. When information is complex, people are more prone to relying on their impressions of a country’s leaders—rather than on factual information— as the basis for their evaluations of government performance. This tendency is particularly pronounced in times of crisis, such as the Covid-19 pandemic. Moreover, China’s military threat toward Taiwan does not affect the Taiwanese people’s assessment of government performance in other countries; it is only limited to the country where the threat originated.