Yam et al. (open source) offer an interesting analysis. (I do hope that the help to incumbent governments offered by COVID-19 they note for many countries and contexts doesn't significantly apply to the upcoming U.S. presidential election!)
Amid the present COVID-19 pandemic, we find that many citizens around the world “rally ‘round the flag” and increase their support for their respective political leaders. We observe these findings among countries that are culturally and geographically diverse, and even among leaders who are strongly disliked by citizens prior to the pandemic. Our findings could have important voting implications during or immediately after the pandemic. As an example, the Korean ruling party won the most seats in the house by any party since 1960 in an election held during the pandemic in April 2020. COVID-19 might thus serve as a catalyst to help some incumbent governments.Abstract
COVID-19 has emerged as one of the deadliest and most disruptive events in recent human history. Drawing from political science and psychological theories, we examine the effects of daily confirmed cases in a country on citizens’ support for the political leader through the first 120 d of 2020. Using three unique datasets which comprise daily approval ratings of head of government (n = 1,411,200) across 11 world leaders (Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and weekly approval ratings of governors across the 50 states in the United States (n = 912,048), we find a strong and significant positive association between new daily confirmed and total confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country and support for the heads of government. These analyses show that political leaders received a boost in approval in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, these findings suggest that the previously documented “rally ‘round the flag” effect applies beyond just intergroup conflict.