After facing the biggest rise in COVID-19 patients in intensive care in five months, France plunged into its third national lockdown in early April. The lockdown measures have been set to last for four weeks and have involved shutting schools and non-essential shops as well as enforcing a curfew from 7pm to 6am. Globally, the coronavirus pandemic is showing no signs of easing, but, armed with numerous vaccines, the United States and the United Kingdom have seen sharp declines in cases.

44% of the French public thinks the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is yet to come, with just a quarter (25%) believing the worst of the pandemic is behind us. 30% say they don’t know where they feel France is at this moment. These results echo findings from a poll conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies in late February, demonstrating persistent pessimism in France.

In stark comparison, 57% across the Channel in Great Britain think ‘the worst is behind us,’ while just 18% think ‘the worst is yet to come.’

Results are even more bleak when it comes to the economy: 65% of the French public think the worst of the economic effects of the pandemic is yet to come for France, while just 14% think the worst of the economic effects is behind them. A fifth (21%) don’t know.

Moreover, beyond the pandemic, 52% of the French public are pessimistic about the general direction in which France is heading, while less than a fifth (18%) are optimistic. Evidently, frustration and pessimism in France is not limited to the pandemic.

Younger people are less pessimistic than older people: just 28% of 18-to-24-year-olds are pessimistic about the general direction France is heading in, compared to 56% of those 65 and over.

Only a third (32%) of French respondents agree that the coronavirus crisis will likely be over this time next year, with a quarter (25%) disagreeing and a further quarter (24%) neither agreeing nor disagreeing. A fifth (19%) do not know. Again, these findings echo results from late February, suggesting that while other countries have become increasingly optimistic about the pandemic, the French public remains largely pessimistic.

Half (50%) of the French public says they are actively scared of contracting coronavirus and consider it a genuine possibility that they may get the virus when they go outside, while 38% do not. Yet, research conducted by Redfield & Wilton in February—when France was not in a lockdown—found the same results, suggesting that fear in France has remained constant regardless of Government measures.

However, the French public are not necessarily more fearful than they were at the start of the pandemic—only 12% say they are more scared now of contracting coronavirus than they were in March and April last year. 29% say they are less scared, while the majority (58%) say they are equally scared.

Again, this result in France differs strongly from that in Great Britain, where 48% say they are less scared than they were in March and April last year. A considerable 40% in Great Britain nevertheless do say they are ‘just as scared’ as they were at this time last year.

The majority (55%) in France say they have become used to the lockdown, but a significant 45% say they have become fed up with it.

Younger people are more divided on the lockdown, with slight majorities of 18-to-24-year-olds (53%) and 25-to-34-year-olds (58%) saying they have become fed up with the lockdown.

Even with the country going into another national lockdown, half (49%) of the French public says that the current Government restrictions in place are too relaxed, while a quarter of respondents (23%) think they are about right, and 27% think they are too restrictive. In late February, a slightly smaller plurality (41%) said that the restrictions in place were too relaxed.

While Government coronavirus restrictions have changed significantly in France in recent months, 61% still think the Government in France is not currently taking the right measures to address the coronavirus pandemic, in line with results from late February (58%). Only a quarter (24%) thinks the Government is taking the right measures. The French Government may have implemented new restrictions to tackle the pandemic, but the public still does not think it is taking the right steps­­––likely pointing towards the slower rate of vaccination which was already evident in late February. Indeed, 72% say they are dissatisfied with France’s vaccination programme so far.

Ultimately, the French public remains overwhelmingly pessimistic about the pandemic in France and the direction the country is heading in more generally. This pessimism is not new nor a consequence of the recent lockdown; indeed, the French public were just as pessimistic in late February, and the majority of the public are more or just as scared of contracting the virus now as they were in March and April last year. Almost half of the public thinks that the Government’s current restrictions are too relaxed, but despite current measures being more restrictive, the French public are just as likely to say the Government is not taking the right measures to address the pandemic now as they were in February.

To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

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