The UK Government is currently considering whether individuals should be asked to prove they have been vaccinated against coronavirus in order to visit businesses such as pubs and to work in occupations such as care home staff. The measures under discussion have sparked significant controversy and some have raised concerns of discrimination, including members of the Government. The latest research by Redfield & Wilton Strategies shows large majorities of the British public would support compulsory vaccinations for certain activities and occupations.

Indeed, about three-quarters of respondents said they would support coronavirus vaccines being compulsory for NHS staff (77%), care home staff (76%), and public service staff (73%). Very small proportions of the British public oppose compulsory vaccinations for NHS staff (8%), care home staff (7%), and public service staff (9%).

Support is high across all age groups, though it is highest among those aged 65 and over, 85% of whom support compulsory vaccinations for care home and NHS staff and 78% of whom support compulsory vaccinations for workers in public services.

When respondents were asked about vaccines potentially being required for anyone visiting a pub or entertainment venue or for all foreign travel, there was less but still very significant support for the concept. 56% of respondents said they would support compulsory vaccinations for anyone visiting a pub or entertainment venue and 69% said they would support the same for all foreign travel. Opposition to these ideas was higher, though still under a fifth of respondents said they would oppose compulsory vaccinations for visiting a pub or entertainment venue (17%) or for foreign travel (14%).

A majority of every age group supports mandatory vaccinations for anyone visiting a pub or entertainment venue except 18-to-24-year-olds––likely due to their low priority status with regards to getting vaccinated. Still, a plurality of 41% of 18-to-24-year-olds support compulsory vaccinations for pub-goers. 

Regarding foreign travel, respondents aged 65 and over (79%) are significantly more likely to support compulsory vaccinations for all foreign travel than those aged 18 to 24 (57%). Given that the youngest age group is likely to be vaccinated much later than older respondents, 18-to-24-year-olds are less in favour of requiring vaccinations for these activities, though a considerable number support it regardless.

The proportion of British respondents who would support the use of ‘vaccine passports’ by businesses such as pubs has increased slightly from 54% in February 2021 to 59% in our latest poll. Meanwhile, opposition has decreased slightly from 22% to 19%.

In our latest poll, 2020 Conservative voters (68%) are more likely than 2020 Labour voters (58%) to support the use of vaccine passports by businesses. Likewise, 65-and-overs (65%) are the most likely to support businesses’ use of vaccine passports, whereas 45-to-54-year-olds (53%) are the least likely to support the idea.

It is worth noting, however, that our question asks respondents whether they would support or oppose a hypothetical policy, once it has been implemented. Respondents may have been no less likely to be supportive of not implementing such a policy. Rather, there is a general tendency for the public to be mostly supportive of whatever it is that the Government and its advisers deem to be safest. As such, our results should be interpreted in the light of the public willing to support vaccine passports for pubs if the Government were to decide in favour of such a policy. It should not be interpreted as the public wilfully desiring a policy of vaccine passports.

Indeed, a majority of Britons say they are willing to carry a vaccine passport: 62% of respondents said they would be willing to carry a vaccine passport in all circumstances. 24% said they would only be willing to carry a vaccine passport for international travel and 13% said they would not be willing at all.

When we asked Britons this question in February 2021, 62% also said they would be willing to carry a vaccine passport in all circumstances. However, 69% of respondents said they would be willing when polled on 1 March 2021, showing there has recently been a slight decrease in the proportion of respondents willing to carry a vaccine passport in all circumstances.

Once again, a large majority (77%) of respondents aged 65 and over in our latest poll said they would be willing to carry a vaccine passport. By contrast, 43% of 18-to-24-year-olds said they would be willing in all circumstances, while 43% said they would be willing to carry a vaccine passport only for international travel.

By comparison, a recent poll conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies in the United States found 55% of Americans said they would be willing to carry a vaccine passport in all circumstances. Therefore, the idea of vaccine passports seems to be widely accepted in both countries, though to a greater extent in Britain. Indeed, a quarter (24%) of Americans said they would not carry a vaccine passport, which is considerably higher than the proportion of Britons (13%) who said they would not carry one.

With over 30 million people having received a vaccine so far in the UK, it seems much of the British public would be supportive of implementing a system which would prove one’s vaccination status, possibly because they believe it could mean restrictions could be lifted sooner on certain activities. Brits especially support requiring proof of vaccination from those who work in vulnerable sectors like care homes, public services, and the NHS. Further, majorities would support mandatory vaccine passports for foreign travel and for visiting pubs, with a large proportion of the British public themselves being willing to carry a vaccine passport in all circumstances.

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.

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