The United Kingdom, like nearly every other country in Europe, is now in a nationwide shutdown. Economic life may not just be at a standstill but is possibly already in free fall. Salaries are not being paid. Others are losing their jobs entirely. Rent, mortgages, loans, credit card debts, and all sorts of payments cannot be met. After this crisis ends, the Government will have to assess the level of economic damage in order to respond appropriately.
Last week, we at Redfield & Wilton Strategy reported widespread approval for Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s interventions to keep the UK economy on life support. In our poll yesterday, public opinion on this intervention still strongly supportive of this fiscal measure.
The next major question for Mr. Sunak will be when this extremely high-spending measure should end. Almost a majority of respondents to our poll largely believed the measure should end by the end of the month after the lockdown is lifted, clearly indicating that they understood the short-term nature of these measures.
The answer to this question will depend, significantly, on the needs of the people. How many have lost their jobs? Are people able to pay their bills? As we have before, we asked respondents to our poll how they expected their financial situation to change as a result of this crisis. 19% said they would be quite negatively impacted, and a further 8% said their financial situation will be dire and require serious financial assistance.
To get a deeper sense of the extent of the damage, we asked respondents whether they were able to pay, in full, their essential bills for the month of March.
Noticeably, a significant share of the young said they were unable to pay their bills in full, specifically 21% of 25 to 34-year-olds.
Thinking about income, generally, 11% of respondents said they earned significantly less than they normally do in the month of March. For the month of April, 16% said they expected to earn significantly less than normally, including 25% of those between the ages of 45 and 54.
We also asked respondents who said they were employed or self-employed at the beginning of March to what extent their employment status was at risk as a result of this crisis. 49% said their jobs were, at least, somewhat at risk, including 15% who said their jobs were “significantly” so. An additional 2% said they had already lost their jobs.
These are seriously troubling numbers. In a week where, across the Atlantic, unemployment claims in the United States doubled from 3.3 million to 6.6 million, there is a genuine concern that the UK may soon see stark rises in joblessness. Our poll suggests about 30% of the public will directly experience, at last, some damage to their finances in the immediate short-term, in the form of lost income. In the long-term, however, it is far too soon to tell the extent of the damage done by this pandemic.
This poll is part of Redfield & Wilton Strategies’ ongoing research into public opinion on the coronavirus outbreak and government’s reaction to the crisis. Further results from our polling in the UK, USA, Italy, France, Spain and Germany is featured here.