Policy narratives, localisation, and public justification: responses to COVID-19

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Globally, infection and death rates from COVID-19 vary dramatically. While states had broadly the same information about the virus at the start of the crisis, responses were very different. What caused such disparity in policy actions and outcomes? While various factors may account for divergent responses, we highlight the importance of narratives employed by key policy actors. First, we review the literature on policy narratives. We suggest it can be usefully augmented with consideration of localisation and public justification. We apply this augmented framework using case studies of Germany and the United Kingdom. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s narrative was more successful at persuading German citizens to embrace government policies to counter COVID-19 than was Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s in the United Kingdom. This difference held important implications for policy outcomes in each country. We conclude by discussing the benefits of this augmented approach to analysis of policy narratives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1219-1237
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of European Public Policy
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • British politics
  • COVID-19
  • crisis management
  • Germany politics
  • narrative policy framework
  • Political leadership

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