May 2015

Patterns of Trust and Compliance in the Fight Against Ebola in Liberia

Insights from our study on citizens' changing levels of trust in government around the Ebola crisis

We wrote an article for the International Growth Center (IGC) Bulletin Three that looks at citizen trust and compliance in Liberia during the Ebola crisis and the economic impacts of ebola. In this article, we share our insights from our two-wave panel study about citizens' changing levels of trust in government during and immediately following the Ebola crisis. You can download the IGC's Bulletin Three below.

An overview of our project taken from the IGC website is below.

Population-based surveys to inform Ebola recovery


Liberia currently faces the dual challenge of rebuilding after the Ebola outbreak while remaining vigilant to prevent its resurgence. In this process, the Liberian government and humanitarian providers face a dearth of information to inform their efforts to support Ebola recovery. To respond to citizen needs in the aftermath of the Ebola crisis, providers need detailed data on current levels of food security, non-Ebola health needs, and economic hardships. Moreover, providers need to know where these needs are most severe as well as how they evolve during the course of recovery. Fine-grained geo-referenced information on citizen needs can help target scarce resources, while trends during the recovery period can help to identify where scarce resources should be directed and with what types of programs. To inform efforts to promote continued vigilance, providers need similarly detailed data on citizens’ knowledge, attitudes, and practices regarding Ebola.

This research project aims to collect this information, to disseminate the results in real-time to stakeholders on the ground, and to make the raw data available to other researchers who may be interested in informing the recovery effort.

Our project is well positioned to achieve these goals. Between December 6 2014 and January 9 2015, the research team conducted a representative survey of 1600 individuals in Monrovia. The survey covered knowledge, attitudes, and practices regarding Ebola, as well as food security, health, economic, political and social outcomes.

The research team has developed a website to disseminate these results. In addition, the research team has collected a sample of over 150 in-country government and NGO officials who will email notification of the website. Selected government officials will also receive some combination of phone calls, text messages, and personal visits to inform them of the information provided on the website.

To allow for high-frequency follow-up, the December survey collected the phone numbers of respondents. In coming months, we will conduct two rounds of follow up over the phone in order to track trends in health, food security, vigilance, and economic outcomes overtime. The website will be updated following each round.

The project also contributes to academic research on the social and political impact of Ebola. Our inquiry focuses on the effect of the Ebola crisis on subsequent trust in government and compliance with government authority, with implications for Ebola response as well as post-Ebola citizen-state relations. Our empirical investigation focuses in particular on the effect of experiences of state failure during the crisis—namely dead bodies that did not get picked up in a timely manner, job loss, and the inability to access medical care—on subsequent trust in government, and we use selection on observable and sensitivity analyses to assess causality. We also focus on ways that the government can build trust in government during the crisis. To this end, we have focused on the effect of MoHSW and LNP outreach patrols during the crisis on subsequent compliance with Ebola controls measures and trust in government, relying on selection on observable control strategies to assess causality. Our preliminary analysis reveals that these programs have resulted in significantly higher levels of trust in government and compliance with Ebola control measures. Following our analysis, we intend to conduct in-country dissemination and discussion of these results, as appropriate, starting with our contacts at the Peace Building Office in the MoIA.