On “Stay Alert. Control the Virus. Save Lives.”

May 14, 2020
Coronavirus | Healthcare

In his address to the nation on Sunday evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson updated the Government’s slogan to correspond to the latest changes to the lockdown measures, which now allows and even encourages those who have been unable to work from home to do so. The new slogan is “Stay Alert. Control the Virus. Save Lives.”

Immediately following this speech, many have described the new slogan as confusing, especially since the changes to the measures are only slight for most people: they can now leave their homes for exercise more than once a day, and sunbathing is permitted. The vast majority of people will therefore continue to stay at home.

In a poll on Tuesday, just two days after the speech, we asked respondents whether they had heard the new phrase and what they made of it. Altogether, 90% of respondents said they had heard this new slogan by that point.

When asked how clear they thought the new slogan was in terms of explaining what they ought to do, about half indicated that they found it ‘extremely’ or ‘reasonably’ clear, while the other half of respondents found it ‘somewhat’ or ‘not at all’ clear.

Interestingly, there is somewhat of a partisan lens to the level of understanding. 65% of those who voted Conservatives in December (n = 645) found the slogan ‘extremely’ or ‘moderately’ clear, compared to 35% of Labour voters (n = 431) who found it so. This difference may suggest some politicisation of this slogan, whereby respondents determine how well they understand the new slogan based on the extent to which they want to understand the new slogan.

Nevertheless, the old slogan seems to have been far more effective and clearer. 94% of respondents said they had heard it.

An overwhelming number of respondents (94%) found the old slogan to be either ‘reasonably’ or ‘extremely clear.’

Taking a look at those who voted a certain way in December, 97% of Conservative voters and 91% of Labour voters found the old slogan ‘reasonably’ or ‘extremely’ clear. Therefore, while there may be some politicisation of the new slogan, it should be clear (sorry) that the old slogan was much clearer to the public.

Many have made much of the phrase ‘Stay Alert.’ An amusing video transposing Prime Minister Johnson’s speech onto the Bee Gees’ 1977 hit Stayin’ Alive has even made its rounds on the internet. However, attention may soon be drawn to the second part of this slogan ‘Control the Virus’ and its implications for the strategy adopted by the UK as ‘control’ does not imply eradicating the virus but only mitigating its spread. More on this later.

This research was also published in Politico.

Data tables for this research can be found here. 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.