Fredén A, Sikström S
Soc Sci Q - (-) - [2021-08-06; online 2021-08-06]
Previous research suggests that governments usually gain support during crises such as the Covid-19. However, these findings are based on rating scales that only allow us to measure the strength of this support. This article proposes a new measure of how voters evaluate Prime Ministers (PM) by asking for descriptive keywords that are analyzed by natural language processing. By collecting a representative sample of citizens' own key words describing their PM in 15 countries in Europe during the outbreak of Covid-19, and analyzing these by latent semantic analysis and a multiple OLS regression, we could quantify the strength and direction of voters' view. The strength analysis supported previous studies that describing the PM with positive words was strongly associated with vote intention. Furthermore, a change in the direction of the attitudes from "good" to "honest" was found. A new finding was that the pandemic was associated with an increase in polarization. The keyword evaluation analysis provides opportunities of evaluating both strength and direction of voters' view of their PM, where we show new results related to increased polarization and shift in the direction of attitudes.