A research project led by Professor SUNAHARA Yosuke of Kobe University Graduate School of Law entitled ‘Measuring Trust and its Variance during the COVID-19 Pandemic Using Serial Surveys and Quantitative Text Analysis’ has been selected for the ‘JRP-LEAD with UKRI’ programme. In this programme, the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) provide funding for selected collaborative research projects between Japan and the UK.

Selected Topic

Measuring Trust and its Variance during the COVID-19 Pandemic Using Serial Surveys and Quantitative Text Analysis

Research Background

In order to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, many countries have implemented restrictions such as lockdowns. Governments have also advised people to get vaccinations in order to prevent infection and serious illness, despite uncertainties regarding effectiveness and side-effects. In democratic countries such as Japan, such policies cannot be successfully implemented by government orders alone. It is necessary for people to reach the decision to comply with the government based on their own judgement. Consequently, factors such as people’s impression of and trust in the government and public institutions have significant bearing on the realization of policy. Furthermore, trust in the government is also expected to play a vital role in future vaccination drives, immigration control measures and economic recovery.

This longitudinal study will use a combination of online surveys and quantitative text analysis. These methods, which have been enhanced significantly in recent years, will enable the researchers to obtain a real-time understanding of people’s trust in the government and public institutions and their other emotions, and to discuss the meaning behind these fluctuations. This combined method is currently in the process of being developed. It can be further developed by teaching it to future generations of graduate students and sharing it with researchers in various countries who are conducting cutting-edge research in this area.

Research Outline

The research group will conduct serial surveys in Japan and the UK based on a shared format, as well as collecting and quantitatively analysing text from sources such as newspapers and Twitter. They will use this to gauge the level of trust in the government and public institutions and the changes in this trust. To measure trust using the survey method, experts in trust research from both countries will draw up the surveys, and response data will be collected continuously over a 2 year period. In addition, during the online survey implementation period in each country, the researchers plan to take advantage of the continuous nature of the study to incorporate survey experiments on topics that are gaining attention at the time.

The quantitative text analysis part of the study will begin by collecting text data from Twitter. From this the researchers will determine what kind of topics people argue about online in relation to the coronavirus and other social issues. They will analyse this along with data relating to where the posters’ live and the social circumstances in that area. In addition, the research group will also collect articles from major newspapers in an attempt to obtain an outline of general public opinion in each country.

The collected data will be analysed by a collaborative team of researchers in Japan and the UK. This will not only enable each country to exchange information and opinions but also presents an opportunity to compare similarities and differences in the political systems and cultures of Japan and the UK, and how these affect trust in the government and public institutions. The researchers will also investigate how these aspects are related to contemporary political and economic points of interest. In addition, an advisory board of experts will be set up to provide suggestions. In this way, they aim to conduct research into a wider range of social concerns beyond the boundaries of the joint research framework.