In a matter of weeks, the coronavirus outbreak has brought life in Europe to a complete standstill. A month ago, the first deaths due to the virus were being recorded in Italy and only a small number of Italian cities and towns had entered a lockdown. Today, the total number of confirmed cases easily reaches into the tens of thousands, and Italy has tragically suffered nearly double the number of deaths as China has (officially, that is). Entire nations are in complete lockdown, whereby residents are only allowed outside for a limited number of purposes.
To make sense of what the public thinks of these sudden, drastic changes to their lives, Redfield & Wilton Strategies conducted three polls, each of 1,500 respondents, in Italy, Spain & France. These three countries were the worst hit so far in Europe by the outbreak. By the time we polled respondents this weekend, these nations had been under lockdown for some time already––in Italy for almost two weeks, in Spain for a week and in France for almost a week.
When asked what they thought about the heavily restrictive measures put in place by their governments, respondents were overwhelmingly supportive. About 9 in 10 supported them, with only about 5% of respondents in each country not supporting them.
France/Spain/Italy has imposed extremely strict social distancing measures to address the coronavirus outbreak, only allowing people outside under certain circumstances. Do you support the decision by the French/Spanish/Italian Government to impose such measures?
Asked how much longer they would be willing to tolerate these restrictions, very few respondents expressed themselves to be unwilling to tolerate them anymore. In fact, a substantial majority in Spain and Italy said they were willing to stay in lockdown as long as the Government deemed it necessary, even if such measures lasted longer than two months.
How much longer are you willing to tolerate such measures?
Such overwhelming support emphasises the extraordinary concern residents in all three countries have regarding the virus and its potential impact on their health. Given a scale of 1 to 5 of how concerned they would be if they themselves contracted coronavirus, a majority of respondents in the three polls rated themselves a 4 out of 5 or 5 out of 5.
On a scale of 1 to 5, to what extent would you be concerned about your own personal health if you contracted coronavirus?
Respondents also clearly indicated that they believe this virus to be more dangerous than the seasonal flu, which itself causes several thousand deaths each year in each country After all, even with the most stringent social-distancing measures in place, the death toll from coronavirus is frighteningly high.
Compared to the seasonal flu, how dangerous do you think coronavirus is?
Altogether, the European public is in it for the long haul. The people are backing their government wholeheartedly in this fight. A strong majority have enough food at home to last, at least, one or two weeks, indicating that they are prepared to go outside as infrequently as necessary.
Given the amount of food currently at home, about how long would your household be able to go without shopping for more food?
And they do generally expect this crisis to last quite some time:
Altogether, about how much longer do you expect the current crisis to last?
To be sure, the public also knows and expects that there will be severe economic repercussions as a result of these shutdowns. But when asked whether they were more concerned about the effect of the virus on the public health or the economy, a strong majority in all countries indicated that they were more worried about the public health:
Which is more concerning to you?
At the end of the day, it should be abundantly clear where the public’s priorities lie. They want to stop this virus and to save as many lives as possible. After all, what is the economy about if not people’s lives? And, moreover, if members of public are worried for their health and well-being, how can any semblance of normal economic life resume?
The measures that are currently in place across Europe are the most burdensome restrictions on their liberty most respondents have experienced in their lifetimes. In supporting them, these Europeans show what they think is at stake. Of course, there may be political consequences further down the line for their governments’ initial inaction against this crisis. But for now, the public is wholeheartedly embracing their government’s bracing response.
This poll is part of Redfield & Wilton Strategies’ ongoing research into public opinion on the coronavirus outbreak and government’s reaction to the crisis. Further results from our polling in the UK, USA, Italy, France, Spain and Germany is featured here.
This research was also published on Politico.