New daily cases of coronavirus in the UK have fallen from their initial peak in May, allowing the country to emerge from lockdown and resume some level of normal activity. Experts have long warned that a second wave could occur if restrictions were lifted too early, or during the course of winter cold and flu season. At this stage, cases are rising across mainland Europe, as well as in the UK.
A clear majority of the British public feared a second wave in polling conducted during the months of July and August. A clear majority of the British public feared a second wave in polling conducted during the months of July and August. In our latest polling, around two thirds (65%) of respondents think that there will be a second wave, which is slightly lower than a peak of 73% on 29 July.
Although a clear majority of the public think a second wave is likely to happen in the UK, only a plurality (46%) thinks that this would translate into a second nationwide lockdown. In mid-August, a majority (54%) of respondents thought there would be another nationwide lockdown before the end of the year.
The fact that a second nationwide lockdown is thought to be less likely than a second wave suggests that the public believe the Government will opt for methods such as local lockdowns to combat coronavirus spikes as much as possible.
In the event that a second nationwide lockdown is implemented, 63% of respondents said they would fully adhere to the lockdown rules, while 23% said they would mostly adhere to the lockdown rules.
Compliance would be much higher among older respondents; 77% of those aged 65 and above claimed they would fully adhere to the lockdown rules, compared to only 49% of 18-to-24-year olds, which may reflect the varied level of threat the virus poses to different age groups.
Our previous research revealed strong support for the lockdown measures introduced earlier this year. We argued that the public, rather than the Government, provided the impetus which initiated the first lockdown. The public’s wariness about the dangers of the coronavirus was continually highlighted in our polling, which underlined their concerns that restrictions were being eased too hastily at the height of the summer. Indeed, a plurality (40%) of respondents said there should be stricter restrictions than during the last lockdown if another lockdown were to be imposed, while around a third (34%) said the restrictions should be the same as the last lockdown. Only 17% consider that a second lockdown should include fewer restrictions than the last lockdown.
Interestingly, although elderly respondents are more likely to adhere to lockdown rules, they also preferred a more relaxed set of regulations. 35% of respondents over the age of 65 believe there should be more restrictions than before, as opposed to 49% of 18-to-24-year olds. Labour voters (46%) were also more likely to favour a stricter lockdown than Conservative voters (35%).
Ultimately, the public is deeply uncertain about how long the coronavirus crisis will last: 37% think it will be over by this time next year, while 29% think it will be ongoing. 23% neither agree nor disagree that the coronavirus will likely be over this time next year and a further 11% don’t know.
Notably, optimism was strongest among younger respondents: 47% of 18-to-24-year olds believe the crisis will be over this time next year, against 27% of those aged 65 and over.
While demographic distinctions can be drawn, there remain broadly high levels of pessimism about the timeline of coronavirus and support for lockdown measures. On the whole, the UK public have realistic expectations ahead of what many predict to be a tough winter for hospitals, businesses, and livelihoods. Redfield & Wilton Strategies will continue to monitor British attitudes towards coronavirus throughout the next several months.