The Truth and Myth of the Advantages of Authoritarian Countries to COVID-19

21 May 2021, Version 4
This content is an early or alternative research output and has not been peer-reviewed at the time of posting.


The COVID-19 pandemic—the worst pandemic since the Spanish flu—has dramatically changed the world, with a significant number of people still suffering and dying from the disease. Some scholars argue that the pandemic has severely damaged democratic countries, mainly because they cannot intervene in their citizens' lives, as opposed to their authoritarian counterparts. This paper reports using cross-national data for 163 countries that authoritarian countries tend to have lower COVID-19 deaths than their democratic counterparts, but stringent intervention is not necessarily a key determinant. A higher number of tests is a more critical determinant of authoritarian countries' advantage. Testing seems to be a vital tool to reduce deaths. This study uses statistical evidence to demonstrate that authoritarian countries are likely to conduct more tests leading to lower death rates. The result implies that authoritarian states can strengthen citizens' support for their government through the COVID-19 pandemic.


political regime
comparative politics


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Comment number 1, Gregg Murray: Jul 23, 2022, 20:01

Readers may also be interested in “Prioritizing public health? Factors affecting the issuance of stay-at-home orders in response to COVID-19 in Africa” with open access at (Murray & Rutland, 2022; PLOS Global Public Health); and/or “Identifying factors associated with the issuance of coronavirus-related stay-at-home orders in the Middle East and North Africa Region” with free access at (Murray & Jilani-Hyler, 2021; World Medical & Health Policy).