Research conducted earlier this month by Redfield & Wilton Strategies across Europe found that coronavirus pessimism has been increasing rapidly. Our latest poll, conducted among 2,000 Londoners on the eve of the city’s elevation to Tier 2 lockdown status, highlighted that pessimism about the course of the pandemic continues to rise. 65% of London respondents now think that the “worst is yet to come” with respect to the timeline of the coronavirus pandemic in the UK, while only a fifth (20%) say the worst is now behind us.
Amidst this rise in pessimism, a strong majority (58%) of Londoners do not believe that the UK Government is currently taking the right measures to address the pandemic. Less than a third (29%) think the Government is taking the right measures.
A slight plurality (46%) of Londoners who voted for the Conservative Party in the 2019 General Election think the UK Government is currently taking the right steps to address the pandemic, whereas a significant proportion (42%) of 2019 Conservative voters in London do not think the Government led by Boris Johnson is taking the right steps to manage the pandemic.
Despite widespread disapproval of the Government’s actions so far, half (50%) of Londoners feel that decisions about coronavirus restrictions in London should be made by the UK Government, while less than a third (32%) think the decisions should be made in City Hall. Labour voters are much more likely (38%) than Conservative voters (22%) to favour the London Mayor and the Greater London Authority having the authority to make decisions about coronavirus restrictions in London, yet a plurality (44%) of Labour voters in London still think that decisions about coronavirus restrictions in London should be made by the UK Government.
The central aspect of the UK Government’s latest strategy to control coronavirus has been the introduction of the Three Tier System, which divides England into ‘Tier 1: Medium,’ ‘Tier 2: High,’ and ‘Tier 3: Very High’ tiers. Although our poll was conducted when London transitioned from ‘Medium’ to ‘High’ tier, only 20 of the 2,000 respondents completed the poll after the city had moved into the ‘High’ tier at midnight on Saturday morning. Nevertheless, two thirds (66%) of all respondents believed the city was already in the ‘High’ tier, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of those polled completed the survey while the city was still in the ‘Medium’ tier. Ultimately, the Government’s decision to announce that London was moving tier on Thursday 12 October, more than 24 hours prior to the actual transition, created confusion among the public.
Furthermore, while 63-70% said that they know what restrictions apply for each of the three tiers, a substantial minority (30-37%) do not know what restrictions are in place in each tier. Young people aged 18-24 are particularly likely to not know (38-42%) what the restrictions in each tier entail. This finding will concern the Government, as the coronavirus pandemic has spread most rapidly within younger age groups. By contrast, an overwhelming majority (71-77%) of those aged 65 or older (the age bracket most at risk from coronavirus) know what restrictions are in force in each tier.
Interestingly, while most Londoners do not believe the Government is taking the right steps to address the coronavirus pandemic, a clear majority (63%) support the recent decision to move London to Tier 2, whereby mixing with other households in any indoor location is forbidden. Support for the decision is consistently high across age groups (59-68%), and across 2019 voters of both major political parties (64-68%)
Nevertheless, while a plurality (46%) of the London public believe that the capital should be in the ‘High’ tier, around a fifth (21%) of all respondents think the city should be less restricted, whereas a quarter (25%) would favour more restrictive measures. A further 8% don’t know which tier the city should be in.
Indeed, while the majority (62%) say they will comply fully with the new rules, a substantial minority (30%) say they will “mostly” adhere to the regulations. Compliance would be markedly lower among younger age groups: 40% of 18-to-24-year olds and 36% of 25-to-35-year olds said they will only “mostly” adhere to the new rules.
Our polling across Great Britain has consistently highlighted that the public is first and foremost concerned about the impact of the coronavirus on public health, rather than the economy. In London, 59% say that the Government should lean towards more restrictive regulations, even at the risk of damage to the economy. Just a quarter (25%) feel that coronavirus measures should be less restrictive, as it could risk a rise in cases of coronavirus.
Notably, despite their increased risk of suffering complications from coronavirus, those aged 65 or older are more likely to favour less restrictive regulations (29%) than those in all other age brackets (with the exception of 25-34-year olds).
While a clear majority lean towards protecting public health over the economy, this desire does not arise from an underlying belief that the economy will bounce back rapidly after coronavirus. A plurality (40%) of Londoners are pessimistic that London’s economy can recover quickly when the pandemic has ended. Just a third (33%) are optimistic, while around a quarter (24%) are neither optimistic nor pessimistic.
Moreover, around three quarters (74%) of respondents say that London’s economy will take some time to recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, even when there is a vaccine or other solution. Only around a fifth (19%) believe that London’s economy will immediately recover. 2019 Conservative voters (26%) are slightly more optimistic than 2019 Labour voters (20%).
Nonetheless, Londoners display relatively more confidence in relation to their personal employment prospects. Among those who had a job before the start of the pandemic, 60% are confident that they will have a job with the same salary at the end of the year. However, female respondents (55%) are somewhat less likely to be confident that they will have a job which pays them the same at the end of this year than male respondents (64%).
Overall, Londoners are increasingly pessimistic about the trajectory of the coronavirus pandemic, both in terms of public health and in relation to the economy. Although the London public does not believe the Government is taking the right measures, it still favours Westminster rather than City Hall having responsibility for deciding London’s lockdown measures. However, the Government’s decision to delay implementing new coronavirus rules for some days after their announcement has created confusion, and a substantial minority are unclear about the specific regulations for each tier. Moreover, some respondents will not fully abide by the new rules, despite the overwhelming majority being in favour of the Government leaning towards more stringent restrictions.