In the last two weeks, significant changes have been made to coronavirus restrictions across the UK, including, in England, the end of social distancing and the face mask mandate, as well as the reopening of all entertainment venues. Following a sharp rise in coronavirus cases, there has been considerable criticism and some confusion over the use of vaccine passports and rules surrounding self-isolation after coming into contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus. Yet, amidst this confusion, the latest research by Redfield & Wilton Strategies shows that the British public largely believes they understand the new rules changes, even if they are not fully supportive of them.
In the wake of the 19 July lifting of domestic restrictions, the current requirement that appears most broadly understood relates to mask-wearing. A substantial plurality (46%) of the British public says they understand ‘very well’ what the current requirements are with respect to wearing a mask, whilst 34% say they understand reasonably well. By contrast, just 12% say they understand somewhat well, and 9% say they do not understand well at all.
Reported understanding of current rules is similar across age groups and partisan lines in this instance, with 2019 Conservative voters (52%) slightly more likely than 2019 Labour voters (47%) to say they understand current mask-wearing requirements very well.
Though there is slightly more confusion with respect to requirements concerning social distancing, attending entertainment venues, and self-isolating following contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus, pluralities nevertheless believe they understand these areas of regulation very well.
41% of respondents say they understand the new rules on social distancing in public very well, followed by 32% who say they understand them reasonably well, 16% who say they understand the rules somewhat well, and 10% who say they understand them not well at all.
Interestingly, age appears to be an important factor in determining how well respondents think they understand current social distancing requirements: For instance, 49% of 55-to-64-year-olds and 44% of those aged 65 and above say they understand current requirements very well. Meanwhile, significantly lower proportions of 18-to-24-year-olds (36%) and 25-to-34-year-olds (35%) say the same, pointing to higher levels of self-perceived awareness of current social distancing requirements among older respondents.
Similarly, 36% of respondents overall say they understand the new rules on attending nightclubs and mass events very well, while 32% say they understand them reasonably well, 16% understand them somewhat well, and 16% do not understand them well at all.
Here, 2019 Conservative voters are more confident in their understanding of the rules. A plurality (44%) says they understand the rules for attending nightclubs and mass events ‘very well,’ compared to 38% of 2019 Labour voters. The latter group are more uncertain, as 31% say they understand the rules ‘reasonably well,’ and 18% say ‘somewhat well’. These figures compare to 29% of 2019 Conservative voters who say they understand the rules ‘reasonably well,’ and just 13% who say they understand them ‘somewhat well’.
Further, 35% of the public say they understand the current requirements for self-isolating due to contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus very well, whilst a similar proportion (31%) of respondents say theyunderstand these requirements reasonably well. 17% say they understand the rules surrounding self-isolation after contact somewhat well, and another 17% report not understanding the rules on self-isolation well at all.
Once again, 2019 Conservative voters are more confident in their understanding of the new regulations: 42% of 2019 Conservative voters say they understand the rules on self-isolation ‘very well,’ compared to 36% of 2019 Labour voters. Furthermore, 17% of 2019 Labour voters report not understanding the rules on self-isolation well at all, compared to 13% of 2019 Conservative voters.
It appears that the rules on international travel attract the most confusion among Britons, perhaps reflective of the frequent changes to travel advisories. Here, a plurality (28%) says they do not understand the rules for travelling internationally well at all. However, a quarter (25%) says they understand the rules on international travel very well, whilst a similar proportion (27%) says they understand the rules reasonably well. A further 21% say they understand them somewhat well.
As before, 2019 Conservative voters are more confident in their knowledge of the new requirements than their Labour counterparts. Indeed, a plurality (32%) of 2019 Conservative voters say they understand the rules on travelling internationally ‘very well,’ in comparison to just a quarter (25%) of 2019 Labour voters who say the same. Conversely, a higher proportion of 2019 Labour voters (27%) say they do not understand the rules for international travel well at all, compared to 23% of 2019 Conservative voters.
In addition, older respondents are more likely than younger respondents to say they are unsure of current rules surrounding international travel. While 30% of both 55-to-64-year-olds and those aged 65 and above say they do not understand current requirements well at all, the proportion of respondents saying they do not understand well at all drops to comparatively lower levels of 23% of 18-to-24-year-olds and 20% of 25-to-34-year-olds.
Overall, pluralities of respondents at least believe they understand the recent changes to coronavirus restrictions well—with the notable exception of rules regarding international travel. With the Government encouraging Britons to ‘Keep Life Moving’ and coronavirus cases falling again, how Britons interpret what is expected of them may still change.