Prime Minister Boris Johnson has not ruled out introducing “vaccine passports” domestically, suggesting that showing vaccination, test, or immunity status could “provide reassurance” as the UK emerges from lockdown. But 41 Conservative MPs and the Liberal Democrats have already pledged to oppose “discriminatory” vaccine passports, likening such a scheme to the introduction of mandatory ID cards. It is unclear whether the Labour Party will support or oppose the Government, but Keir Starmer has suggested that passports would be “un-British,” and the Party wishes to seek more clarity about how they would be used.
The majority (61%) of British respondents say they would support the use of “vaccine passports” by business such as pubs, with a fifth (20%) opposing.
However, a plurality would also support (43%) NOT implementing a policy of “vaccine passports” for pubs and restaurants. A quarter (24%) would neither support nor oppose the decision to not introduce passports, and a significant 29% would oppose them not being introduced.
While the majority of the public may support vaccine passports being used by businesses such as pubs and restaurants, a plurality would also support them not being used, suggesting that public support or opposition to vaccine passports is malleable and far from decided. This willingness to support either direction is also in line with a deference we have observed among the public to the Government and its scientific advisers throughout the coronavirus crisis.
Even so, this finding suggests that the introduction would make a minimal difference in reassuring the public that pubs and restaurants are safe for a return––indeed, pubs and restaurants are re-opening this Monday for outdoor hospitality without requiring anything from patrons. It is also important to note that the Government has not provided any details on how a vaccine passport scheme would work. Public opinion could therefore change if the process to obtain a vaccine passport or negative test is perceived as burdensome and, like track & trace before it, ineffective and futile.
Overall, the majority of respondents say they would be willing to carry a vaccine passport in all circumstances (59%) and a further quarter say they would be willing the carry a vaccine passport for international travel only (26%). 15% say they would not carry one under any circumstances. This latest figure indicates a slight decrease in willingness to carry a vaccine passport domestically in the last month.
Notably, only 38% of 18-to-24-year-olds say they would carry a vaccine passport in all circumstances. Approximately half (49% to 50%) of 25-to-34-year-olds and 35-to-44-year-olds would carry one in all circumstances, while a significant minority (20% to 24%) of these age groups say they would not carry one under any circumstances. Therefore, while a plurality of respondents from these age groups say they would carry a vaccine passport in all circumstances, a substantial minority of younger people may refuse to carry one and could thus be excluded from many public institutions if vaccine passports are introduced. Given that many industries—especially the hospitality sector—will be reliant on the patronage of younger people to recover, the fact that the majority of 18-to-24-year-olds say they will not carry a vaccine passport in domestic settings could pose a serious problem to economic recovery.
A plurality (47%) of respondents say “vaccine passports” should be introduced for pubs and restaurants, and a third (35%) think otherwise. A fifth (18%) remain unsure, perhaps owing to the fact that the Government has not released details about how the scheme would work.
A plurality (45%) of 18-to-24-year-olds think vaccine passports should NOT be introduced in pubs and restaurants, while only a third (32%) think they should. Respondents aged between 25 and 44 are divided on the issue.
2019 Labour voters are less likely to think that vaccine passports should be introduced in pubs and restaurants (43%) than 2019 Conservative voters (57%). However, this discrepancy is likely a representation of the differences across the age groups given that a higher proportion of the older age groups voted Conservative. Nevertheless, a substantial minority of both 2019 Labour (36%) and 2019 Conservative voters (29%) do not think vaccine passports should be introduced for pubs and restaurants, and many are unsure (14-20%).
Ultimately, the majority of the British public would support businesses using vaccine passports and would be willing to carry one in all circumstances. However, a plurality would also support not implementing a vaccine passport policy. While most respondents said they would be willing to carry a vaccine passport, there are significant differences across the age groups, with younger age groups substantially less likely to say they would carry a vaccine passport for reasons other than international travel and driving opposition to the introduction of vaccine passports for pubs and restaurants.
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.