In the last couple of days I’ve seen three polls asking about government handling of the Coronavirus. There was a short Yougov poll shared between Sky and the Times on Friday (here), a much longer YouGov poll in today’s Sunday Times (here), and an Opinium poll for this morning’s Observer (here).

I should start by saying a little to what extent public opinion matters at all on a topic like this. In judging what the correct approach is, public opinion obviously weighs little if at all compared to the opinion of experts in epidemiology. However polls are not about finding the correct answer, they are about measuring what the public think, whether that is right or wrong, wise or foolish, and on other levels this does matter. We know the government are keen to stress they are following the scientific advice, but would they be blown off that course if there was widespread public dissatisfaction? We don’t know. Perhaps more importantly, many of the actions the government will take in the months ahead will depend upon the public’s willingness to get on board and follow their instructions, so public confidence in the government’s actions really will matter.

On the topline the majority of people approve of the government’s performance:

  • in the YouGov/Times/Sky poll 55% said the government was handling it well, 31% badly.
  • In the YouGov/Sunday Times poll 53% say they have a confidence in the governments handling, 40% do not.
  • In the Opinium/Observer poll 44% approved of the government’s reaction, 30% disapproved.

Overall these are positive findings. However there is a caveat. Asked about the amount the govt have done to respond the YouGov/Sunday Times polls dound 47% think have done too little, compared to 4% too much and 39% about right. Using a differently worded question Opinium found a similar breakdown of opinion (12% over-reacting, 41% under-reacting, 41% about right). In other words, while the public support the governments handling so far, there is some feeling they should now be going further (though given the government have been explicit that they will be introducing more stringent measures in future weeks it’s probably a good sign that there is public appetite for it… it would be far trickier if the public thought the government were over-reacting).

It’s also worth noting that Opinium found that only 36% of people trusted what Boris Johnson personally said on the issue of the coronavirus, a less positive figure than the government as a whole (in contrast 59% of people said they trusted Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Advisor – suggesting the government’s strategy of regularly flanking Johnson with Whitty and Patrick Vallance at press conferences may be a wise one).

Asked about specific changes that could be introduced there seems to be widespread support for a wide variety of measures. The YouGov/Sunday Times poll found majority support for a state of emergency, for travel bans, for food rationing, for cancelling large events. Opinium found similar. Asked about closing schools (perhaps the topic that has been discussed the most over the last week), Opinium found 44% of people in favour, 26% opposed – plurality support, but not the overwhelming backing they found for some other measures.

4,675 Responses to “YouGov and Opinium polls on the government’s handling of the Coronavirus”

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  1. ALEC

    @”We are in the hands of the gods of science at the moment.”

    Aye-though my money is on the science.

  2. @JIB – you might be interested in this –

    How directly comparable NZ is to the UK is obviously debatable, but the openmindedness of the NZ government to look at other countries experiences and then admit they were on the wrong track decisively and quickly may be a point to consider.

  3. @JimJam

    Will be interested in your views about Jess Phillips getting a front bench position in Starmer’s shadow cabinet. I’m absolutely delighted, but I suspect some in the party won’t be! Liz Kendall back too. Not quite the March of the Blairites, but Starmer is moving a little quicker than I thought he might in terms of re calibrating the party. Your view about him being emboldened by his big win is obviously right though. It’s liberating him from thinking he has to play some hideous balancing act to suit all factions. That usually, in the end, pleases no one and infuriates many.

    Very interesting times and it suggests a football metaphor to me, as most things do eventually. If you’re a Manager, you usually get better results when playing your first team rather than sticking the reserves on the pitch and having your strikers sitting on the bench, unused.

    Is Starmer Pep Guardiola to Corbyn’s Tony Pulis, I wonder?


  4. “49% said they were more anxious and depressed
    38% said they were having less sleep
    35% said they were eating more or less healthy food than normal
    22% said they had financial worries because of shutdown
    19% said they were drinking more booze than normal
    19% said they were arguing more than normal with those they lived with
    Half the sample said they expected it to be a year or more before things returned to normal.

    Kelly Beaver of Ipsos Mori said “It’s becoming clear that people are beginning to suffer due to the restrictions stemming from the Covid-19 outbreak. It’s incredibly concerning that half of people say they are feeling more anxious or depressed.”


    This is going to get worse & I don’t think anyone knows what the long term effects will be.

    The pressure on Governments to lift this cloud over their people must be tremendous.

  5. I wonder if in the lockdown the evocation of the law of the Parliament of Scotland of March 1457, and then extending it to all the home countries would help (sorry, I am translating it):

    “Goff (as golf was known then) should be banned and nobody should play it.”


  6. Liz Kendall is OK and you may recall Corbyn praised her for her clarity of position comparing what he saw as indecisiveness from Cooper and Burham.

    As to Phillips, I am less sanguine and hope that it is a device to encourage restraint.

    Actually, I think you have missed out Wes Streeting who was as scathing of Corbyn as Phillips without, as far as I can recall, doing anything positive which Phillips has done on domestic violence.
    His appointment might the one to disappoint Corbyn supporters the most?

  7. @ Crossbat11

    The funniest book I saw on someone’s bookshelf was 1066 and All That, it’s a forerunner to Horrible Histories. It prompted me to buy a copy as I hadn’t read it since I was knee high to a grasshopper. Looking forward to a happy reunion.

  8. @WB61

    Your observations are fairly well-made, although to be honest I’ve always been a bit Jekyll and Hyde. Occasionally someone gets under my skin and elicits a spasm of annoyance before I get myself under control again.

    On Starmer’s Shadow Cabinet and Momentum.

    I think to some extent Labour’s left have been hoist by their own petard here. The standard defence to Corbynism, in the face of overwhelming scepticism / outright opposition within the PLP, was that it was democracy in action and he had been voted in overwhelmingly by the membership.

    Starmer has too, so any grumbling about his authority to reposition the party can be met with the same defence, with bells on.

    So far I am really impressed. I know nothing of Dodds but almost all of the other shadows appointed are, in my opinion, amongst the best politicians in Labour’s armoury.

    Whilst I would never rule out voting Labour, I never have done and probably won’t ever do. However, this team is looking more appealing to me than any Labour setup since the 1990s.

    I hope that the Tories also steer a sensible centrist path post-pandemic, and that we can have a “Race to the Sensible” rather than a race to the extremes in UK politics. I know people on both sides sometimes hate it, but I am most comfortable when the two main parties are competing to do more or less the same thing “but better” and the debate is about details, competence and nuance rather than Revolution vs Reaction.

    The irony is that if this happened, it would probably be the death of the LDs…

  9. Good Morning everyone from a sunny Bournemouth; which is part of the new Bournemouth/Christchurch/Poole authority (BCP) which is having some difficulty with travellers. These travellers are coming to their second homes for the weekend down the A31 and A35.

    I wonder how long, since this is a polling site, it will be before the polls move due to what are seen by some people as draconian limits on our freedoms of movement and assembly.

    JIM JAM.
    I think Keir Starmer has made a solid start.

  10. @ Crossbat11

    On the virus, apparently as the virus mutates it’s less likely to destroy its host so although we’re stuck with it it should be less dangerous over time, a silver lining?

  11. I agree that Starker is a solid politician but I don’t think that’s enough to win an election, purely a personal opinion.

  12. @Bantams

    I don’t think it’s like that. Frankly, just about anyone can win an election if the cookie crumbles correctly for them.

    Starmer and Labour are obviously not starting as the favourites for 2024, although it’s so far away that this doesn’t mean all that much. By any measure winning a majority from such a poor start is very hard to do.

    For me Starmer’s job is to position the Labour party as “prudent Left”, keeping some of the Corbyn positions on, say nationalisation, but steering to the centre particularly on things like policing and migration policy – to regain the Red Wall voters.

    If Starmer comes out of 2024 having done well enough that Labour are favourites for 2029 and he keeps his job, he will have succeeded. Although of course his objective is to win, and that is also perfectly possible.

    Whether he wins or not will largely be down to Boris, the Tories, the world economy and “events”. Experience tends to show that people vote Labour more when the economics feel secure than when they feel shakey (people trust Labour to spend money, not so much to save it). On that basis, Labour has an interest in a decent recovery and a smooth Brexit in my opinion.

  13. Cambridgeshire police have been to a local Tesco and are pleased to report that there was nothing in the non essentials aisles.
    Who are these nincompoops?
    Do they know how coppers in this country are supposed to behave?
    Have they read Sir Robert Peel and his policing principles of 1829?
    This is what happens when coppers start interpreting what they think guidelines are rather than just following the law. It doesn’t matter what’ some well meaning chief constable thinks.
    I knew this would happen….people laughed when I mentioned high handed rozzers…..well they’re not laughing now…

  14. @Hugo,

    The police geared up for a major increase in need for policing which didn’t materialise.

    Some forces now have too much time on their hands.

    However, policing has changed massively since 1829 and Peel’s guidelines. The advent of diversion schemes, ASBO and other civil orders, positive action policies, “always belive the victim” instructions, multi-agency working and numerous other blurrings of lines have meant that the police now take responsibilty for “doing what’s right” and not just neutrally enforcing the law.

    Not that I necessarily agree, but the reaction to the pandemic is just one string to a multi-stringed bow.

  15. @ Hugo

    The traffic down here today in Cornwall is ridiculous, people from a high contagion place like London are arriving, some of them inevitably shedding their virus generously in a county where we only have one hospital to share between us all.

  16. @Charles

    You may find this article in Nature interesting:


    In England, Edward III banned football in 1349 because it was interfering with archery practice. I would add that football then bore little resemblence to modern-day soccer.

  17. From the grunge live feed –

    “Fewer than one in five healthcare workers who suspected they had coronavirus actually tested positive for the disease, according to one of the first published UK studies of mass testing on NHS workers.

    Scientists from Sheffield, which started testing all symptomatic healthcare workers a fortnight before much of the rest of the UK, have published research showing that 81% of staff reporting symptoms tested negative.”

    That’s rather interesting, as it raises questions over the accuracy surveys that rely on tracking Covid 19 by self reporting of symptoms. On the face of it, this suggests over counting may be going on?

  18. new thread

  19. @Alec

    It also highlights the importance of the government getting on with testing for keyworkers. We may be losing hundreds of thousands of man hours to unnecessary self-isolation. That’s very unfair on the ICU staff wearing painful masks and enduring sweltering conditions in PPE for longer than they have to each day. More staff in work = shorter hours.

  20. @ CB 10.30 am

    That Metro article on strains of the virus is based on research that some folk here spent time on, and putting messages, several days ago. Nextstrain was the key link.

    I am not sure whether they have simplified things accurately, or too much. But I am fairly sure that there being plenty of mutations happening is bad news for those working on vaccines or tests for incidence – cf Bantams` hopes.

    One thing that occurred to me days back on this, is that it would have been good if Nextstrain had coded Scotland occurrences differently to England & Wales ones.

    This could have shown that a different strain was circulating here, perhaps brought back from Wuhan by the Aberdeen University group who were there in early February.

    I hope that the Porton Down staff sampling for virus traces have been working across the whole UK (DTel article suggests it might just have been in England). The whole UK needs protection.

  21. “Fewer than one in five healthcare workers who suspected they had coronavirus actually tested positive for the disease, according to one of the first published UK studies of mass testing on NHS workers.

    Scientists from Sheffield, which started testing all symptomatic healthcare workers a fortnight before much of the rest of the UK, have published research showing that 81% of staff reporting symptoms tested negative.”

    That seems to me to be further evidence for the virus passing from person to person rather less than many people believe it to be.

    And if the rate of infection among ‘healthcare workers reporting symptoms’ is only around 20%, it stands to reason that the infection rate among the population as a whole is a fraction of that figure.

  22. Good Morning everyone from a very warm Saturday before Easter Sunday.
    I am wondering if social distancing will work in our classrooms if we return after Half Term in June.

    NEIL A.
    Good Afternoon to you; I saw your comment about the Liberal Democrats. Do you think their poll ratings are rather high at the moment? I have a gut feeling that they are high; only my hunch though..

    Hello to you; no news yet from the football front, but I too think Keir Starmer has made a good start. I noticed he used the old phrase TIGPOO (This great party) in his video speech. The Labour Party has an amazing capacity to come close to termination and then revive; as after 1935, 1959 1979 and now 2020

  23. I am amazed at people on here I had previously thought the be intelligent. People seem happy with the concept of interrogating the quality of polling data. Please give some thought to the quality of the data you are extrapolating totally confident conclusions on. GARBAGE IN. GARBAGE OUT!

  24. @Alec – In favour of my ‘hypothesis’ have a look at table 3 in the preprint you cited. It is true that if introduced in week 1 following the intervention closing schools is (marginally) the most strongly associated with outcome this is by no means the case if introduced late.

  25. Catch it quick before it is gone. Monty Python is The National’s headline writer:

    “Behind the capture of one of Adolf Hilter’s closest allies”

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