Public Cautiously Optimistic about Coronavirus Situation

June 7, 2020
Coronavirus | Healthcare

A poll conducted last week by Redfield & Wilton Strategies found that 46% of the UK public does not trust the Government to make the right decisions to safely lead the country out of lockdown. This figure was at its highest in Scotland, where 61% of respondents do not trust the UK Government to safely lead the country out of lockdown—and neither do 69% of those who voted Liberal Democrat across the UK in 2019 and 61% of those who voted for Labour. Among 2019 Conservative voters, 61% do trust the Government in this regard, although a significant 24% do not.

When asked about the possibility of a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic unfolding in the UK later this year, 48% of respondents do not think the Government would be prepared to stave off a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, if there is one. Although those who voted Conservative in the 2019 General Election were more likely to say the Government is prepared (51% agreed) than those who voted for Labour (only 24% agreed), almost a third of 2019 Conservative voters do not think the Government is prepared to stave off a second wave of coronavirus.

Despite some people’s perception that a second lockdown might be inevitable, 45% of respondents to one of our previous polls did not agree with the statement that a second lockdown would indicate a failure by the current Government. When compared to the 43% who did agree with this statement, one can see a clear divide in how the UK public views the Government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis

Although 48% of respondents do not think the Government is prepared to stave off a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, there is nevertheless some optimism, with almost half of UK respondents saying they feel the worst of the pandemic is now behind us. The 47% who shares this view contrasts with the 30% who think the worst is yet to come, and the 24% who said they do not know. It appears that the plurality of the UK public thinks a second wave is inevitable and the Government is not prepared to stave it off, yet the situation will not be as severe as it has already been during the current wave of the pandemic. One reason for this might be doctors and scientists’ increased knowledge of the virus, how it spreads, and how to treat it, as well as the fact we now have a better idea of how lethal it is.

Indeed, the cautious optimism of the public also manifests itself when 43% agree the coronavirus situation in the UK is coming under control, yet 61% agree that it will only be fully under control when a vaccine is found. Overall, the public appears to be coalescing around the idea that the situation is currently improving, but it will not be fully resolved until there is a vaccine (if a vaccine is to come at all), and therefore a second lockdown is likely to be necessary.

Although 43% think the coronavirus situation in the UK is coming under control, a significant 31% disagree. Male and Conservative-voting respondents were more generous in their assessment, with 50% men thinking the situation is coming under control, compared to only 37% of women. Similarly, 57% of 2019 Conservative voters think the situation is coming under control, compared to 37% of Labour voters and 31% of Liberal Democrat voters. Nonetheless, despite the party divisions in assessing the current situation, voters of the three parties all agreed in a similar proportion (61-63%) that the coronavirus situation in the UK can only become under control when a vaccine is found. Only 12% of respondents disagreed with this statement.

Although scientists and medical professionals largely agree that the coronavirus situation will not be fully under control until we have a vaccine, this does not mean that the situation cannot become largely under control, as is currently the case in countries such as Austria or Greece. However, the public in the UK does not currently think the Government is prepared to steer the country away from needing a second lockdown, and is even worried that the Government cannot make the correct decisions to lead the public out of the current lockdown. Even among 2019 Conservative voters, there is a significant proportion—around a quarter—who appear to have lost confidence in the Government as pertains to the coronavirus crisis.

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.