Written By Philip van Scheltinga

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Good Thursday Afternoon,

It’s time to take a look at the polls! Each week, Magnified delivers insights and analysis straight to your inbox, allowing you to stay up to date on what the public thinks about the most important issues of the day. Keep reading for the latest updates on our weekly trackers, as well as our national and international polls. Today, we also take an in-depth look at what factors have allowed Taiwan, in contrast to the UK, to keep coronavirus case levels remarkably low throughout the pandemic.

This week, our research also covered:

  • Taiwanese respondents’ opinion on Taiwan’s long-term strategic interests
  • The British public’s (lack of) support for renewed coronavirus restrictions
  • Germans’ views on a federal European Union

If you would like to find out more about how Redfield & Wilton Strategies can help your organisation succeed through polling and strategic advice, click here.

Westminster Insights

Westminster Voting Intention
(29 Nov):

Conservative 38% (+1)
Labour 36% (-1)
Liberal Democrat 10% (+1)
Green 6% (–)
Scottish National Party 4% (–)
Reform UK 4% (–)
Other 2% (–)

Changes +/- 21 Nov

All Net Approval Ratings
(29 Nov):

Rishi Sunak: +14% (-2)
Keir Starmer: -9% (-4)
Boris Johnson: -10% (-2)

Changes +/- 21 Nov

Our latest Voting Intention poll gives the Conservatives a two-point lead over Labour, with 38% (+1) of voters saying they would vote for the Conservative Party if an election were to be held tomorrow.

While these results mark a slight improvement for the Conservatives compared to last week when they were tied with Labour, there remain plenty of reasons for the party to be concerned. This week’s poll finds the Government’s net competency rating at -18% (-1), for instance, and Boris Johnson’s net approval rating has declined by two points to -10%.

One factor that may be contributing to negative views of both the Government overall and the Prime Minister may be the ongoing dispute with France over illegal channel crossings and the human tragedies occurring in this context. Indeed, immigration (32%) is the policy area under which a plurality of respondents would classify the political or Government-related news story that most caught their attention in the past week.

The Government’s performance in the policy area of immigration now elicits a damning -33% net approval rating—a four-point decrease compared to last week. Among the Conservative Party’s own 2019 voter base, a plurality (40%) disapproves. Problematically for the Government, a plurality (albeit a marginal one) of Britons now say they trust Labour (28%) most to handle immigration rather than the Conservatives (27%)—only the second time the Conservatives have conceded their lead in this policy area since we began tracking party trust on the issue of immigration in March 2021.

That the proportion of Britons citing immigration as one of the three issues most likely to determine how they would vote in a General Election has increased by five points to 33% over the past week is thus hardly good news for the Government. Among 2019 Conservative voters, immigration (49%) is now the most frequently cited issue, ahead of topics such as the economy (47%) and healthcare (45%). While the Conservative Party may be in recovery from the blow the recent Owen Paterson affair has dealt it, other problems keep obstructing the Government’s path to regaining the favour it has lost.

Chart of the Week

How would American voters characterise Joe Biden?

When asked to say whether they think a range of descriptors accurately describe Joe Biden, only one key strength stands out: 47% think Biden can be described as someone who displays empathy, compared to 41% who think this description is not accurate. While empathy is certainly a positive trait, this quality alone does not necessarily make for a competent President.

45% further think Biden can be described as someone willing to work and compromise with the other party and 44% think he is someone who understands policy, though a respective 43% and 44% conversely think these descriptions do not match Biden.

When it comes to other desirable presidential characteristics such as leadership potential, truthfulness, and decisiveness, pluralities or majorities take a negative view of the President. While public opinion is narrowly split on whether Biden stands up for the interests of the United States—with 45% thinking he does and 46% thinking he does not—views are more definitively negative regarding other characteristics. For instance, 51% of Americans overall think Biden cannot be described as someone who knows how to get things done.

The President’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic is perhaps one of the most prominent fields in which (the perceived absence of) this strength plays out: While half (52%) of Americans still thought Biden had handled the pandemic better than Trump in March, voters’ belief in Biden’s ability to manage coronavirus has evidently declined. Now, Americans are divided between believing President Biden has handled the coronavirus crisis better (39%) or worse (36%) than President Trump.

In addition, 55% of Americans—including not only 88% of 2020 Trump voters but also a noteworthy 27% of Biden’s own voters—do not think the President is a strong leader, a damning verdict for the person at the head of what is often seen as the world’s most powerful country. A further 49% do not think Biden can be described as someone who tells the truth (compared to 37% who think he does), and half (50%) of Americans think he does not do what he promises to do (compared to 34% who think he does).

Together with his Administration’s net approval rating that has sharply declined in recent months and now stands at -9%, these negative views of Joe Biden suggest the President has a difficult road ahead, especially should he be considering seeking a second term in office in 2024.

Our Global Data

Great Britain: Among likely Conservative voters, 57% could not see themselves voting for any other party than the Conservatives in an election in the next few years. Likely Labour voters, by contrast, appear somewhat more flexible, with 36% saying they could not see themselves voting for any party other than Labour in the next few years.

Taiwan: 48% of Taiwanese respondents think that closer relations with the United States will best serve Taiwan’s long-term strategic interests, compared to 17% who think closer relations with the People’s Republic of China will. At the same time, half (50%) of respondents are optimistic that in the most important foreign policy areas, such as security and economic trade, Taiwan can align itself with both the US and China, not just one of the two.

Taiwan: Though a plurality of 39% thinks that Taiwan buying military arms from the United States makes it more likely that a military conflict over Taiwan’s status will occur in the next ten years, 48% nevertheless support such arms sales, while just 16% oppose them.

United States: Voters’ outlook on the future in politically salient US states varies greatly depending on the level of governance they are prompted to assess. Whereas pluralities in Arizona (44%), Georgia (38%), North Carolina (43%), Pennsylvania (41%), and Texas (41%) are pessimistic regarding the general direction in which the United States as a country is heading, pluralities in these same states are instead optimistic regarding the general direction in which their state is heading, in proportions ranging from 34% in Arizona to 45% in Texas.

Hire Us: If you are a business, campaign, or research organisation looking to expand your understanding of public opinion, Redfield & Wilton Strategies has the tools to help. Get in touch to find out more.

Long Exposure: In-Depth Analysis

‘Zero Covid’ as the Ultimate Goal: How Taiwan’s Handling of the Pandemic Differs from the UK’s

Taiwan is often considered a coronavirus success story. Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Taiwan has had 16,600 cases of coronavirus—less than half as many as the UK registered yesterday alone. Whereas Taiwan has so far recorded 848 coronavirus deaths, the UK has seen more than 145,200—a figure more than 170 times higher. In fact, the pandemic has led to less overall deaths than would have been expected under normal conditions in Taiwan, with the nation registering an excess mortality rate of -3%. In the UK, by contrast, death numbers were 17% higher than they likely would have been without the pandemic.

To be sure, with its 23.6 million residents, Taiwan’s population is just about a third of the UK’s 67.2 million. That alone, however, cannot account for the dramatic differences in case numbers and deaths. If anything, Taiwan, with a population density of 673 per km2 compared to the UK’s 281 per km2, should have been more prone to a rapid transmission of the virus. Moreover, though both Taiwan and the UK are island nations, Taiwan’s close physical proximity to China, where the pandemic originated, should have put Taiwan at a greater earlier risk.

In practice, however, distrust of its close neighbour was one of the key factors of Taiwan’s success. Indeed, low levels of trust in the veracity of official reports emanating from China likely played a key part in informing Taiwan’s highly cautious approach to the pandemic. Public opinion attests to this distrust: In December last year, 77% of Taiwanese respondents said the official number of cases and deaths due to coronavirus reported by China is not trustworthy, and 76% thought the Chinese Government covered up or hid the seriousness of the threat from coronavirus when the virus first emerged.

Partially informed by the nation’s previous experience with SARS in 2003, Taiwan assumed that the real situation was worse than the CCP initially let on. On 31 December 2019, the same day that China publicly reported the pandemic, Taiwan wrote to the World Health Organization warning of likely human-to-human transmission of coronavirus—something that was only confirmed by China on 20 January 2020. Taiwan had also already started screening and testing travellers arriving from China in December. This rapid action was critical to Taiwan’s later success: Early precautionary measures prevented the pandemic from ever becoming as widespread (and thus as unmanageable) in Taiwan as it did in the UK.

Three main measures have influenced the Taiwanese Government’s approach to curbing the spread of coronavirus: Strict border and quarantine measures, efficient testing and contact tracing, and extensive mask wearing. Importantly, the public views these measures in a largely positive light: Currently, large proportions of respondents think the Government is taking the right measures to address both the coronavirus pandemic itself (57%) and its economic repercussions (50%).

Throughout the first stages of the pandemic, international tourists and non-residents were banned from entering Taiwan, whereas the UK continued to allow flights from Italy, the first European epicentre of the pandemic, and only implemented (comparatively lax) travel restrictions later on, with little enforcement. Today, Taiwan’s entry restrictions remain among the strictest in the world, requiring even fully-vaccinated arrivals to undergo a 14-day hotel quarantine—a measure 42%, a plurality, would oppose the Government relaxing. Moreover, Taiwan successfully employs a GPS-based information system that, based on individuals’ mobile phone signals and nearby cell towers, triangulates the location of those in quarantine and those who may have recently come into contact with someone who has since tested positive.

In the UK, by contrast, more than half (55%) of those polled in October 2020 had not downloaded the Track and Trace app, and one year later, with the benefit of hindsight, 56% say the UK Government did a bad job implementing Track and Trace during the coronavirus pandemic (compared to just 20% who think it did a good job).

In addition, widespread mask wearing has been another key ingredient to Taiwan’s success in keeping the pandemic in check. When the island experienced its only significant outbreak to date in May/June 2021 (though even then, daily cases never exceeded 600), the Taiwanese Government imposed a strict mask mandate, requiring people to wear masks not only when visiting shops but also when engaging in activities such as hiking in a forest, for example. Even before the Government introduced its mask mandate, however, mask wearing was remarkably widespread. In December 2020, when about three new cases were reported per day, self-reported mask wearing in Taiwan exceeded UK levels by far.

Now that the Government’s mask mandate has been relaxed, mask wearing continues to be the norm. Strong majorities report ‘always’ wearing masks when shopping at the supermarket (91%), taking public transportation (89%), leaving their home (82%), walking in the park (81%), entering a building other than the one they live in (78%), or meeting with a friend outside (74%). In the UK, by contrast, only 19% ‘always’ wear a mask when leaving their home, and 12% when they go for a walk in a park.

From travel restrictions to masks, Taiwan clearly adopted a very different approach to the pandemic than the UK from the outset. Given that the UK did not take drastic measures to prevent the virus from spreading until late March, when it had become too late, whether the UK could have at any point successfully switched—or could still now switch—to a ‘zero covid’ strategy similar to Taiwan’s is highly questionable.

Nevertheless, the example of Taiwan—and indeed of other democratic countries such as South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand that, until they recently reopened their borders, adopted a similar approach—is an uncomfortable counterpoint to those who posit that we must learn to live with the virus. The public is instinctively aware of the fact that another way of handling the situation was initially possible, despite such paths now appearing unavailable.

Ultimately, that pluralities or significant minorities in the UK continue to feel unsafe going about daily activities such as taking public transport (45%), eating inside a pub or restaurant (30%), or going to work (22%) is a sign that some have not yet accepted this new reality of ‘living with the virus’ and may struggle to do so for the foreseeable future. For this group, Taiwan is a sore reminder of what could have been.

Perspective: The R&WS Take on the News

Chris Whitty: Public would need to back more Covid curbs
BBC | 27 November 2021

Our take: Amidst rising concern over the recently discovered Omicron variant of coronavirus, Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty has said his “greatest worry” is whether people will accept new restrictions on activities to keep the new strain in check. Indeed, our latest polling shows that while 41% say the measures currently in place are ‘too relaxed,’ this view is not majoritarian. 49% instead think the current Government restrictions are ‘about right,’ and 10% think they are ‘too restrictive’—a considerable proportion, given that restrictions (and enforcement of restrictions) are virtually nonexistent, apart from the renewed mask mandate for shops and public transportation. In total, more than half (59%) of Britons thus have little appetite for stricter measures. Given that even partial disobedience to new restrictions would risk lowering their effectiveness, the Chief Medical Officer’s concerns thus appear justified.

Germany to push for ‘United States of Europe’ in overhaul of foreign policy
The Telegraph | 26 November 2021

Our take: The newly formed German coalition Government, in which Europhile Green Party co-leader Annalena Baerbock was named Foreign Minister, is set to press for a federal “United States of Europe.” While 43% of Germans do have a favourable view of the European Union overall (compared to 19% who have an unfavourable view), this push for European federalism may still go against public sentiment at this point in time. A plurality of 34% of Germans already think the European Union and its Central Bank intervene too much in Germany’s economy. In addition, 43% of Germans say the coronavirus pandemic has weakened the arguments in favour of the European Union, while only 18% think it has strengthened arguments in favour of the EU. Consequently, garnering widespread public support for federalising the EU would likely be a significant challenge for the incoming Government at this point in time.

R&WS in the Media

Each week we bring you the top stories from the media that have featured our research.

Donald Trump Would Trounce Joe Biden If Election Was Held Again, Poll Suggests
Newsweek | 25 November 2021

Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon continues to push for independence referendum by end of 2023
Politico | 29 November 2021

Airlines struck by more Covid turbulence as new travel curbs hit recovery
The Telegraph | 30 November 2021

Are you a journalist needing a stat for your latest piece? We can be your resource—our polling covers hundreds of issues in multiple countries each week. If you are working on an article on a topical issue, chances are we have already asked the public about it. Get in touch and we’ll share our polling data with you!

Our Research on Social Media

Top 5 Tweets This Week

  1. Britons aged 18-24 and 25-34 most trust the Labour Party in every policy area, while those aged 65+ most trust the Conservative Party in all areas except tackling poverty. (15 Nov): (see full tweet)
  2. For which OTHER party could current Labour voters see themselves voting? (25 Nov): (see full tweet)
  3. According to the British public, the UK’s current approach to managing migrants crossing the English Channel is… (24 Nov): (see full tweet)
  4. UK Government Policy Approval Breakdown. (24 Nov): (see full tweet)
  5. Do Britons approve or disapprove of the Government’s performance on Immigration? (21 Nov): (see full tweet)

Have a question or want to know more about our research? Get in touch! Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Follow us on Twitter

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