Mapping behavioural and emotional response to Covid-19 pandemics: A comparative study of UK and Italy

Auspex International Ltd
on 04/02/2020

This study compares and contrasts the behavioural and emotional responses of populations in the UK and Italy to the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown. The surveys sampled 2,001 citizens in each country and findings included a segmentation of each population, based on behavioural psychology, mapping tendencies of different groups towards either constructive or destructive mindsets and behaviours.

Why was the research conducted?

Scientist argues that Italy tracks two weeks ahead of the UK. Our idea was to try to project what will be state of the mind of people in the UK in two weeks. On the other hand, our objective was to differentiate between people as per their behavioural and emotional response patterns to the crisis. The idea was to use this report to build a targeted communication strategy that would deter and calm segments engaging in destructive behaviours and encourage those engaging in constructive behaviours.

How was the research conducted?

The research was conducted online simultaneously using 70 different access panels in the UK and 73 in Italy. Earlier this month, Auspex conducted two large-scale online surveys in the UK and Italy, focusing on residents’ behavioural and emotional responses to the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown, with samples of 2,001 respondents in each country – representative by age, gender, region and socioeconomic class. The study was fully anonymous and no personally identifiable information was collected. Our respondents came from a mix of 70 different access panels in the UK, and 73 panels in Italy, adjusting for the sample coverage and sampling frame bias.

What are the key findings of the research?

Scientists calculate that the UK is tracking approximately two weeks behind Italy in the trajectory of the Covid-19 outbreak, and appears to be following a similar ‘psychological arc’ in its battle with the virus – but with some key differences.

- Almost 70% of Italians believe their country now faces the “highest state of emergency”, compared to 38% of Britons, who lag behind in their perception of the gravity of the crisis.
- Italy is turning a corner in the public mood that is still some way off for the UK, with 32% of Italians saying “We have just begun to understand how to win”, while 30% of Britons believe “We have just crossed the threshold into the unknown.”
- Nearly half of UK residents feel that life is more chaotic now than a month ago, compared to only a third of Italians. There is also a significant difference in optimism between the two countries, with nearly 30% of Italians believing that their country’s situation is likely to improve in the next month, but only 12% of Britons.
- UK residents' biggest fear (56%) is of people they know getting sick or dying from the virus, while the biggest concern for Italians is the potential collapse of the economy (60%).
- While both countries’ residents overwhelmingly approve of measures such as closing pubs and restaurants and enforced staying at home, they diverge on the imposition of martial law (with 28% of Britons approving, compared to 21% of Italians) and the monitoring of personal data (17% in the UK vs 23% in Italy).
- The UK may have already left the European Union, but the crisis appears to be driving Italy towards the exit as well, with 64% of Italians feeling “Somewhat further apart” or “Much further apart” from the EU – and closer to Russia (50%) and China (74%).
- Further analysis by AUSPEX, using advanced segmentation algorithms, has revealed the populations of each country dividing into five broad groups as they struggle to cope with the effects of the outbreak, with implications for the tailoring of official messaging to encourage positive behaviours and discourage negative ones as the lockdown continues.
- The five identified segments in the UK are: Resentful Ressimists (18%), Deluded OPtimists (14%), Pragmatic Realists (30%), Nervous Dependents (26%) and Sceptical Troublemakers (12%)
- The five identified segments in Italy are: Cynical Pessimists (21%), Creative Self-isolators (16%), Compliant Seniors (34%), Passive Optimists (22%), Distressed Parents (7%)

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Contributor's Name: Dr Mihajlo Popesku