Across several weeks, we at Redfield & Wilton Strategies have been monitoring public opinion on the easing of lockdown measures. Whereas for most of June there was a gradual movement towards viewing the pace of the lockdown as being appropriate (rather than too fast), in our latest poll there has been a significant reversal of this trend, with the majority now thinking lockdown measures are being eased too fast. Here, we investigate the trajectory.
Lockdown measures were first relaxed from 1 June, when car and caravan showrooms, outdoor sports facilities and outdoor markets were allowed to re-open. Outdoor gatherings of people from more than one household were also sanctioned for up to six people. Some school year groups were permitted to return to classrooms. At this stage, a majority of 55% believed the Government was easing lockdown measures too fast, while 28% considered it was acting at the right pace, and 15% stated the Government was going too slow.
On the 9 June, it was confirmed that non-essential retailers in England would be able to reopen their stores from Monday 15th June, in addition to zoos and safari parks. However, following this announcement, there was an 11 percentage point drop in the proportion who thought the Government was acting too fast, with the figure dropping from 55% to 44%. Meanwhile, support for the pace of lockdown easing at the time rose slightly to 30%. The minority of respondents who believed lockdown was being eased too slowly had increased by 3 percentage points to 18%.
In a poll conducted on 25 June, forty-eight hours after the Prime Minister confirmed that a wide range of hospitality venues (including pubs, restaurants, hairdressers, and hotels) would be able to reopen on 4th July, a strong plurality of 49% stated they believed the government was relaxing measures too quickly. This result represented a rise of 5 percentage points from the 11 of June, but it was still a lower proportion than the 55% who held this view on 3 June. Overall, 31% thought at this stage that the lockdown was being lifted at the right pace, continuing the slow rise in support for Government policy. The percentage of those polled who thought that the government was still relaxing measures too slowly had declined to just 13%, as may have been expected given the raft of re-openings announced by the Prime Minister.
Although the effective cessation of lockdown was announced in England on Tuesday 23 June, a rapid rise in coronavirus cases in the city of Leicester caused the Government to impose the first ‘local lockdown’ in the UK on 29th June. Health Secretary Matt Hancock stated that Leicester had “10% of all positive cases in the country over the past week” and announced that non-essential shops in the area which had reopened on 15 June would be closed. Pubs and restaurants in Leicester which were planning to reopen from 4 July will also have to delay plans for at least two weeks, in contrast to the rest of the country. Schools were also shut again for most pupils.
On 1 July, shortly following the imposition of a local lockdown in Leicester, the proportion of people who believed the lockdown measures were being relaxed too quickly had increased to 58%, a rise from 49% the week prior, and the highest proportion since we started asking a variant of this question at the beginning of June. Moreover, only a quarter (25%) of those polled at this point believed the Government is relaxing lockdown at the right pace, which is the lowest level of support across the four polls. Notably, in this latest poll, a majority (52%) of 2019 Conservative voters think the Government is acting too quickly to lift lockdown, while less than a third (32%) now thinking they are taking action at the correct speed.
Overall, across all four polls this past month, only once (on July 11) did more members of the public think the lockdown was being eased at the right pace or too slowly than thought it was being eased too quickly. Support for the current rate of lockdown easing has now dropped, and those in favour of restrictions being lifted at a more rapid rate are a small minority. 
The public remain extremely wary of the possibility of a second wave of the virus, which may explain why a majority currently think lockdown measures are being relaxed too quickly. A significant majority (72%) of respondents think that there will be a second wave of coronavirus cases in the UK, while only 11% do not believe there will be.
Although the Government’s current pace for easing the lockdown is supported by less than a third of respondents in our latest poll, the decision to implement a localised lockdown in Leicester is backed by an overwhelming majority of the public: 81% approve of the recent decision to implement a localised lockdown in Leicester, while just 4% disapprove.
Whilst it must be acknowledged that the Leicester lockdown will only directly impact a city of 329,839 people and its surrounding conurbation of towns and villages, public support for the strategy is also indicated by the overwhelming majority of the public who state that they would adhere to a local lockdown in the area where they live, if the Government were to introduce such measures. 83% of respondents would adhere to a lockdown in their local area, whereas just 10% would not. Ultimately, the public’s continued willingness to follow Government measures in this instance may ensure that local lockdowns can be utilised as an effective tool for containing coronavirus.
Although Leicester is currently the only part of England which will remain locked down after 4 July, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has previously suggested that “local lockdowns” will be introduced to tackle regional outbreaks of coronavirus in England in the future. When asked what the Government’s decision to lockdown Leicester reveals about their strategy, a majority of respondents (51%) think the decision to impose a local lockdown in Leicester indicates the Government does have a viable strategy to prevent another national lockdown. Meanwhile, 30% of respondents said the lockdown in Leicester indicates the Government does not have a viable strategy to prevent another national lockdown. A significant 19% of respondents said they do not know what the local lockdown in Leicester reveals about the Government’s strategy.
Throughout the last month, a clear plurality of the public has consistently believed that the lockdown restrictions are being lifted too quickly, and in our latest poll a majority of the public now holds this view. The cautiousness of a large proportion of the UK public is likely linked directly to concerns about a second wave of coronavirus cases. Nevertheless, although the public are not broadly in favour of the current rate of lockdown easing, there is overwhelming support for the local lockdown in Leicester, and the announcement of this local lockdown has led to a majority of the UK public believing the Government has a viable strategy to prevent another national scale lockdown.
 Although worded slightly differently, the meaning of the question across the four polls is essentially the same.
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.