COVID-19 and Changing Values

More Info


We study value change due to the corona pandemic. With the help of topic modelling, we analysed COVID-related news articles for changes in the frequency of how often these news articles address eleven different values. We looked at news articles from six countries (US, UK, South Africa, India, Japan, South Korea) and new articles spanning a longer period (2016–20); the latter also contained non-COVID news. We find that in the first few months of the pandemic, there is a punctuated shock in the frequency in which values are addressed. While we see a sharp increase in the value of health and safety, we see a significant decline in the values of democracy, privacy, and socio-economic equality. However, after the first months, we see a move in the opposite direction, which suggests that the punctuated shock’s effect may be cancelled over time. We also present – and offer possible explanations for – differences between countries and compare our results with the literature. We do not find evidence that the COVID-19 pandemic confronts us with a moral dilemma of health versus economic welfare, or lives versus livelihoods, as has sometimes been suggested. Our study also indicates a degree of moral resilience in the studied countries, in the sense of the ability to pay attention to morally important values, despite being put under pressure during a crisis.