Denial and Distraction: How the Populist Radical Right Responds to COVID-19; Comment on “A Scoping Review of PRR Parties’ Influence on Welfare Policy and its Implication for Population Health in Europe”

Document Type : Commentary

Authors

1 Department of Health Management and Policy, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA

2 University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA

Abstract

This commentary considers the impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic on the study of populist radical right (PRR) politicians and their influence on public health and health policy. A systematic review of recent research on the influence of PRR politicians on the health and welfare policies shows that health is not a policy arena that these politicians have much experience in. In office, their effects can be destructive, primarily because they subordinate health to their other goals. Brazil, the US and the UK all show this pattern. PRR politicians in opposition such as the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) in Austria or the Lega in Italy, said very little during the actual health crisis, but once the public no longer appeared afraid they lost no time in reactivating anti-European Union (EU) sentiments. Whether in government or in opposition, PRR politicians opted for distraction and denial. Their effects ranged from making the pandemic worse.

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