Research conducted by us Redfield & Wilton Strategies in the months of June and July points to a rising pessimism regarding the coronavirus situation in Spain: while a strong plurality of Spaniards (44%) in June felt that the worst of the health crisis was behind them, by July over half (53%) of respondents instead answered that the worst of the pandemic was yet to come in Spain.
After being one of the worst-hit countries by the virus, this downturn of morale comes as Spain emerges again as a hotspot after reporting more than 9,000 new cases just last week. In Catalonia in particular, a large majority (71%) feared that the worst was yet to come as local authorities urged residents to stay at home and avoid gatherings of more than ten people. In Barcelona, residents were asked not to move to their second homes over the weekend to avoid a further increase in infections. These recommendations were put forward as a means to avoid the implementation of a complete lockdown in the region.
Despite the actions taken to introduce local lockdowns in Catalonia, we found that a majority (60%) of respondents across Spain think the Spanish government is not taking the right steps to deal with the recent rise in coronavirus cases.
Even a significant plurality of those who voted for the current coalition government expressed their dissatisfaction; 45% of respondents who voted for PSOE and 48% of respondents who voted for Podemos thought their government was not taking the right steps. Such findings confirm our research published earlier this month which pointed to the low approval ratings for Spanish politicians during the pandemic. In July, only 28% of Spaniards answered that Madrid’s actions were adequate in dealing with the rise of coronavirus cases.
The Spanish public’s desire for its government to take more stringent measures to protect the population is reflected in the fact that three quarters of respondents (76%) claim that they continue to observe social distancing rules strictly. Evidently, the public in Spain remains very concerned about coronavirus, and the overwhelming majority is erring on the side of caution in how they are behaving.
Despite the fact that a vast majority of Spaniards say they continue to follow social distancing rules strictly, respondents showed scepticism when asked if their compatriots were being just as cautious. Indeed, a staggering 85% of Spaniards feel that people have forgotten too quickly the threat posed by coronavirus.
Led by these fears, a vast majority (72%) of respondents answered that they believe that another round of lockdowns is likely to happen in Spain.
By comparison, when asked the same question in Italy – a country which suffered from similar levels of Covid-19 cases to Spain – we found that only 55% of respondents believed that another lockdown was likely to be implemented
However, we found that only 60% Spanish respondents would approve of a second national lockdown, suggesting that public opinion is coalescing around the idea that local lockdowns will be the best way forward in managing the coronavirus pandemic until a vaccine is available.
In the meantime, officials have made it compulsory across Spain to wear masks indoors and outdoors if social distancing measures cannot be respected. We found that more than three quarters (81%) of Spaniards support wearing a mask in public spaces.
Interestingly, we found that a relatively smaller proportion of respondents (70%) believe that face masks are an effective tool to combat the spread of coronavirus. Perhaps respondents believe that other measures such as social distancing are more effective than face masks to prevent coronavirus infections. Nevertheless, the fact that nearly three fourths of the population believes in the effectiveness of face masks suggests that it is likely that compliance rates will be very high.
As Spain surpassed 28,000 coronavirus deaths last week, King Felipe VI paid tribute to victims during a state ceremony in Madrid. The severity of the pandemic in Spain is reflected by the fears and concerns highlighted in our poll, which only seem to be growing amongst Spaniards. We at Redfield & Wilton Strategies will continue to monitor the evolving situation in Spain in the coming months.