Majority of British Public Confident in Efficacy of Local Lockdowns, Yet Plurality Believe Worst is Yet to Come Overall

August 18, 2020
Coronavirus | Restrictions
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On Thursday the 30th of July, the UK Government announced the re-imposition of partial lockdown in large areas of northern England. Up to four million people in Greater Manchester, east Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire are now banned from meeting with people from different households indoors. While pubs and restaurants remain open, separate households are not allowed to mix. Relaxations for those shielding were also suspended in the area.  Lockdown measures have also been re-imposed by the Scottish Government on Aberdeen. All pubs, bars and restaurants in the city have been closed, and the five-mile advisory limit on travel reinstated with residents advised not to visit other people in their homes.

Redfield & Wilton Strategies latest polling found that an overwhelming majority (79%) of respondents support the respective decisions by the UK and Scottish Governments to impose local lockdowns. Only 5% of respondents oppose the decision, while 13% neither support nor oppose. 

There is no discernible difference in the level of support for the decision depending on the age of respondents. Moreover, the policy is supported by over three-quarters (76%) of 2019 Labour voters, as well as 85% of Conservative voters. 

A clear majority (62%) of the UK public agree that the decision to lock down parts of northern England and Aberdeen has increased their confidence in the Government’s ability to prevent another national lockdown. Just 12% disagree that local lockdown policies have increased their confidence in the Government’s ability. Almost a quarter (24%) neither agree nor disagree that the policy has increased their confidence, which may indicate that a proportion of the public consider that localised lockdowns will not have an impact on the Government’ overall ability to prevent a national lockdown.

Over two thirds (67%) of Brits consider that local lockdowns are an effective tool in combating the spread of coronavirus, whereas just 10% disagree. Over a fifth (21%) neither agree nor disagree that local lockdowns are an effective tool in combating the spread of coronavirus. 

Younger people are notably less likely to believe local lockdowns are an effective tool – just 50% of respondents aged 18 to 24 years old consider that local lockdowns are effective. In contrast, an overwhelming majority (79%) of older respondents aged 65+ believe local lockdowns are an effective strategy in combating the pandemic. The limited belief among younger people that localised lockdowns will be effective may be linked to an awareness that some groups within their own generation have been less compliant with social distancing measures.

While there was initial hope that coronavirus tracing could be effective at reducing cases after the end of the nationwide lockdown, local authorities have criticised the Government’s ‘test and trace’ system and decided to establish their own models. In response, the Government has announced that the test and trace system in England is cutting 6,000 staff by the end of August, with the remaining contract tracers being redeployed to work alongside local public health teams. Meanwhile, the public are divided on the effectiveness of ‘test and trace’ measures: 29% of Brits are confident that ‘test and trace’ measures will keep down the number of new coronavirus infections, yet the plurality (38%) are ‘pessimistic.’ 

Scepticism over the effectiveness of ‘test and trace’ measures may influence the public’s opinion on whether or not there will be a second wave of coronavirus cases in the UK. A strong majority (66%) of the UK public continues to believe that there will be a second wave, which nevertheless is 6% fewer than our poll on the 29th of July. Only 16% of respondents do not think there will be a second wave of coronavirus cases, while 18% don’t know. 

A clear majority of Conservative supporters (63%) and Labour voters (69%) alike think there will be a second wave.

Furthermore, a plurality (40%) of UK respondents consider that, in relation to the timeline of the coronavirus pandemic, the worst is yet to come. Only around a third (34%)think that the worst is behind the country, while about a quarter (26%) don’t know. Interestingly, the UK public has become more pessimistic about the advancement of coronavirus in the country: on June 3rd, a strong plurality (47%) considered that the worst was behind the UK, while just 30% believed the worst is yet to come

A plurality (44%) of 2019 Conservative voters believe that the worst is behind us, while about a third (32%) say the worst is yet to come. In contrast, almost half (47%) of 2019 Labour supporters think the worst is yet to come, and only 29% consider the worst is behind us. Greater levels of optimism among Conservative voters may be related to their increased trust in the current Conservative Government’s ability to manage the crisis. 

The UK public supports the Government’s decision to impose local lockdowns and also considers that local lockdowns are an effective tool in combating the coronavirus. Nevertheless, it is relatively pessimistic about the ability of ‘test and trace’ measures to keep down the infection rate and a majority believe that there will be a second wave. Brits are more pessimistic about the status of the coronavirus pandemic in the country than two months ago, yet certain demographics remain relatively confident that coronavirus may be behind us.

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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