Research News Live: Who’s breaking the rules?

Originally published: Research News Live, 1 September 2021

As the pandemic continues well into 2021, shifts in attitudes and behaviours towards government imposed rules and restrictions are on the rise.

Lockdown fatigue, exasperation at the thought of no end, and loss of confidence in the handling of the crisis could all be possible explanations leading to people flouting the rules put in place to keep us safe.

Or, can some of it be attributed to an unwillingness to comply with rules in general? And what are people’s feelings towards rule breakers who potentially undo the hard work of rule followers?

Pureprofile asked a sample of 1,876 nationally representative panellists from the UK, US, AU and NZ about their attitudes towards government rules and COVID restrictions. Here’s what they discovered:

Driving over the speed limit is the most common everyday law that is broken in all 4 countries, with two-thirds of people from the US and NZ admitting to this and about 2-in-5 from AU and the UK.

Most people in all 4 countries say they have not knowingly broken any of the COVID restrictions and follow the rules: NZ (79%), AU (73%), UK, (60%), US (52%).

Social distancing from others is the most commonly broken rule in all 4 countries: US (26%), UK (19%), AU (15%), NZ (11%).

Americans (33%) and Brits (23%) feel most comfortable breaking COVID rules compared to Aussies (13%) and Kiwis (11%).

Most people in Australia feel anger (52%) over disappointment (41%) when other people do not follow COVID rules and restrictions – whereas in NZ, UK, and the US most people feel more disappointed than angry.

Overall, about 9 out of 10 people in all 4 countries see themselves as rule-followers.

The infographic below represents further key findings from the research:

Infographic: Who’s breaking the rules?


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