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Do people obey the rules during the corona crisis? Benjamin Van Rooij and Chris Reinders Folmer, researchers of the Center for Law and Behavior (C-Lab) investigated in their project 'Compliance with COVID-19 Mitigation Measures' to what extent the Dutch comply with the coronavirus mitigation measures. The research provides important insight into how the corona policy can be augmented in order to increase compliance. The project was realized with the support of NWO, within the Corona Fast Track Data program.

Among other things, the study shows how sharp the decline in compliance with social-distancing rules has been in the Netherlands this summer. In the surveys, which were conducted six times between May and July among a representative sample of the population (1,000 people at a time), 50% indicated that they always complied with the rules at the beginning of May; in July this was only 11%.  


The researchers have studied which factors explain whether Dutch citizens did (or did not) comply with the rules during this period. It appears that the Dutch keep more distance when they see the coronavirus as a greater threat (to themselves, their loved ones, and public health), when they support the coronavirus mitigation measures more, when they are better able to comply with the measures, and when others around them also comply with the measures.

Impulsive Dutch people, however, are less inclined to keep a safe distance. The study found no evidence that the enforcement of the measures has contributed to compliance.  

Increasing compliance

The research thus provides important insight into how the corona policy can be augmented by increasing support. The government can do this by emphasizing the continuing threat of the virus, and by taking measures that have broad support in society (or vice versa: increase support among the Dutch by convincing them of the measures).

In addition, policy should demonstrate that compliance is the norm, so that the Dutch feel that keeping their distance is normal. When citizens do not spontaneously keep their distance, practical measures can be taken that make it easier to keep their distance and prevent violations. This can be done by cleverly designing spaces, but also by innovation in working and learning from a distance.


This research was funded by NWO, within the 'Corona: fast track data' program. This grant program was set up to collect data on emerging questions in society during the corona crisis.