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. First!

  2. STATGEEK.

    Second

  3. Younger voters will probably support the governments efforts where older voters may say not enough has been done because they are more at risk.

    I still think the best course of action would be ask the over 70’s to self isolate for up to 4 years , cough, four months….Would free up public transport and roads.

  4. What if all over 70s went and lived in Skye?

    Isolation for them from the dreaded bug, and they can get their own little Skyexit.

    :D

  5. Interesting polls, but I would think this is quite a volatile matter of opinion. A sharp rise in cases might change perceptions quickly especially when deaths become more prevalent and the number of people who ‘know someone who knows someone whose mum/dad/brother/ sister/ aunt / uncle as die’ becomes a significant percentage of the population.

    Am I the only one who found Matt Hancock’s answer re the adequacy number of respirators available to the NHS (which is reported as 5,000) laissez-faire taken too far – I haven’t seen the exact quote but the BBC reports the answer as follows: “Mr Hancock acknowledged the 5,000 already available would not be enough. He said the government would be urging manufacturers to produce as many as possible.”

    Surely a case for telling or ordering not ‘urging’?

  6. AC
    You must be of my nephew’s boss’s persuasion. He’s told staff that as the roads will be clearer, they’re expected to get to work 30 minutes earlier and leave 30 minutes later.

    I think it might be a wind up.

  7. Allan

    What if older people don’t want to be locked away though? nInety year olds that I know are well aware that they’re near the end anyway, and want to make what they can of what’s left. Their lunch clubs and social contacts are precious to them and they don’t worry about the future. Are they to be forcibly confined to their rooms?

    Also, many 70 yr olds are pretty economically active. How are they going to replace them in the checkout counters at our local Morrisons?

    I’m not sure this has been thought through.

  8. STATGEEK
    What if all over 70s went and lived in Skye?

    Isolation for them from the dreaded bug, and they can get their own little Skyexit
    ______________

    The last time I was up in Skye it appeared to me that a lot of over 70’s from England had already self isolated onto the island. They old buggers brought with them a horrible virus…It’s called “Pushing up house prices” Locals are most at risk from the effects!

  9. The German government has confirm German media reports that Donald Trump attempted to buy exclusive rights to a vaccine being developed under a research program there.

    This guy gets more despicable by the day.

  10. From previous thread…

    STEAMDRIVENANDY
    AC
    Your faith in the UK armed forces is touching but at full strength there are just 190,000 of them. With overseas deployments and forces that need to remain in post, I’d say that at max you’re talking 100,000 available, maybe substantially less as they’d be getting infected too.

    That’s a 650:1 ratio to the population. Not really helpful, except maybe in hot spots.

    By contrast the NHS has 1.2m staff, a ratio of 54:1. Though whether that includes the extra nurses that aren’t really extra isn’t clear
    _________________

    Fair point, I should have added in NHS staff, police and the fire brigade in this. If they all were issued with the proper ppe then like I said before, if one part of the workforce are being asked to work from home then we all must work from home.

  11. Re self isolation, was discussing this with my son who is in first year of Edinburgh University data Science degree. They are all to log in to lectures from home after next week and exams cancelled for first years.

    I asked him about volleyball (he plays for the team) and apparently this will carry on casually. Asked about his gaming clubs and proximity to each other. He retorted that they were well positioned psychologically as people who were already life experts in self-isolation!

  12. STEAMDRIVENANDY
    AC
    You must be of my nephew’s boss’s persuasion. He’s told staff that as the roads will be clearer, they’re expected to get to work 30 minutes earlier and leave 30 minutes later.

    I think it might be a wind up
    _____________

    I now drive from Winchester to Southampton for work now. It takes me around 30 mins in the morning and the same again in the evenings going home.

    If they took all the old yins off the toads then I reckon it would shave around 5 mins off my journey each way. Your nephews boss has a point.. ;-)

  13. If a few airlines go out of business, that should lead to increased fares (less competition) which will lead to fewer people aimlessly flying round the world, which will lead to less emissions and carbon. People can get used to video conferencing and virtual holidays around the world, with one of those headsets on.
    If there is a silver lining, that is it.
    And before people get carried away about deaths from the virus, a couple of facts.
    99% of us who are age 65 now will be dead anyway, inside 30 years. Flu and pneumonia kills thousands every year and nobody bats an eyelid and thousands die on the roads every year and nobody proposes banning cars, or closing motorways.
    So we do need to retain some perspective.

  14. @Alec

    “exclusive rights”

    So he can sell it to the people that’ll vote for him. Making a mint, and getting rid of your opponents 101.

  15. NHS staff is largely admin and ancillary. Medical staff is probably about 30-40% (not sure, but it’s not the majority).

  16. PATRICKBRIAN
    Allan

    What if older people don’t want to be locked away though? nInety year olds that I know are well aware that they’re near the end anyway, and want to make what they can of what’s left. Their lunch clubs and social contacts are precious to them and they don’t worry about the future. Are they to be forcibly confined to their rooms?

    Also, many 70 yr olds are pretty economically active. How are they going to replace them in the checkout counters at our local Morrisons?

    I’m not sure this has been thought through
    _____________

    I agree and my comments were slightly tongue in cheek with regards to the over 70’s but there is an important point with older and people with underlying health issues and that is they are more at risk from Covid19.

    For over 70’s and those unwell they should be asked (not told) if they can stay indoors for a period if it comes to this…In the are they really going to arrest all those who tell the authorities to bugger off if they don’t self isolate?

    The petition going around asking the Gov to start implementing a lock down is joke…I would go to prison before anyone told me to stay indoors.

  17. @ Alan Christie
    “I would go to prison before anyone told me to stay indoors.”

    Um yes right. Brilliant logic. You would sooner be locked up rather than be locked up.

  18. It’s hardly world shattering news that a proven l!ar is thought to be ly!ng.
    In respect to government policy only time will tell.

  19. Robbie Alive

    It’s sometimes wise to consider that some folk (probably especially Alan!) may have intended the humour in the comment.

  20. @ PATRICKBRIAN

    If a significant element of the over 70’s don’t accept the recommendation to self isolate then inevitably some will end up making use of the limited number of ventilators available plus the staff needed to operate them. Matt Hancock isn’t making these recommendations for the good of his health.

    After feeling better yesterday I woke up at 2am this morning feeling feverish and coughing, two hours later after a cup of tea and listening to the radio I managed to get back to sleep. My lungs felt as though they were “popping” when I breathed in and my back hurt between my shoulder blades, weird!

    I’m still a bit feverish now and my back still hurts but not enough to call 111 again. My symptoms are mild compared to a lot of other people, this is a REALLY bad virus and I’m letting everyone on here know this as you probably haven’t encountered anyone else who has been infected.

  21. Vote of thanks to those working in low paid “unskilled” jobs such as retail and food distribution .(Including my two children incidentally) Who despite decent degrees could only find these jobs available.
    For most of the time many treat these people like dirt and we are about to see how much more significant they are than paper pushers and city bookies earning 100 times as much.
    Vote of thanks of course also to my Nurse wife and my ex colleagues in the Police , old fat retiree soon to be back in uniform Isuspect

  22. @Trevs

    Thank you for your reply to my post. Examples of the uncertainties to which I referred are the degree to which, if at all, the disease is infectious before symptoms appear and the speed and completeness with which contacts can be traced in different conditions. The modelling was able to show the likely consequences of different assumptions about these variables but not what the true values were. It also made the assumption that once somebody was told to self-isolate they would comply and would not pass on the illness. This assumes we are like China in this respect which may or may not be true..

    In practice I don’t think one needs sophisticated mathematical modelling in order to make a reasonable judgement. As you point out, some things are known. One of these is that the genie is out of the bottle. The virus has got a hold, the number of infected cases is growing rapidly and unless we do something the NHS is going to be overwhelmed. A second is that while it certainly infects younger age groups it almost never kills anyone under 60 and rarely anyone under 70. It therefore makes sense to lock up the elderly while you stock up on ventilators etc and treat the virus as a very unpleasant kind of vaccine against itself. This as I understand it is much what the government has in mind and it looks sensible to me. (Much as I hate to say anything good about the government. I guess that, for once, experts are back in.)

    if I am right about the strategy, the government has done itself no favours by the way it has communicated it. What it is trying to manage is not the peak level of infected cases – it probably can’t – but rather the peak level of demand on the NHS. This makes sense, and they might succeed if manufacturers can provide the ventilators and the elderly comply. By giving the impression that they were trying to smooth peak infection rates HMG unnecessarily took on the role of king Canute..

  23. HERD IMMUNITY

    Not wanting to be alarmist but am puzzled by the govt’s plan for 60% of us to get the virus thereby reducing the overall effect on the population at large.

    60% of the UK population is 40 million people and with the current death rate at 1%, that would mean they are planning for 400,000 people to die (!). Wouldn’t it be better to have lockdown as policy than herd immunity?

  24. DEATH RATES

    A doctor writing in The Guardian yesterday reported that the death rate among the over-70s is 8% and the over-80s 15%. Figures from China but no reason to think they are exceptional.

  25. @Toby

    I think the theory is that if you can separate the vulnerable from the rest, and let the rest catch it, suffer it, and recover from it, then wait long enough, they won’t pass it on to others, and the vulnerable are safe to come out to play.

    Reality and theory are rarely the same though.

  26. Tobyebert

    I am no epidemiologist but as I understand it in South Korea the mortality rate amongst known infected is 0.8 % and is likely to be significantly lower if assumptions about those who are not tested and do not report an illness are taken into account Also the current rate of deaths there as with China is lower than new infections which indicates the total infection rate could (big ?) be significantly lower.

  27. @ TOBYEBERT

    If the policy on over 70’s is adhered to properly when it’s implemented it should make a huge difference to the number of infections that would likely otherwise need ICU treatment.

    On the herd immunity as soon as people get the virus and recover it immediately starts impacting on potential transmission rates, you don’t need to get to 40 million nfected to start significantly altering the maths on this.

  28. @BANTAMS

    “If a significant element of the over 70’s don’t accept the recommendation to self isolate then inevitably some will end up making use of the limited number of ventilators available.”

    The Italian health service has more patients than ventilators, so they are prioritorising the under-65s. Seems shocking but is what we already do in various health situations, like kidney transplants.

  29. @STEVE BANTAMS STATGEEK

    Well I hope you’re right, but other countries, which are also making science-based decisions, are going for lockdown instead of herd immunity. It’ll be ‘interesting’ to see who’s right.

  30. @ STATGEEK

    You’re absolutely right about the risks but the virus is now all around us and Government has to make some really difficult and life affecting calls. They all individually will have family and friends they are concerned about healthwise and they will have that added responsibility at the back of their minds when making these challenging decisions.

  31. Kevin Maguire of the Mirror was on the radio earlier and he’s just come back from Dublin. He said that despite the announced lockdown by Varadker on large assemblies of people together the pubs were packed to the rafters at night!

    In Belgium they’ve come to a compromise on schools, they’re keeping them open only for the children of public service workers and those parents who have no other choice but to work. That could be workable here.

  32. A friend of ours is pushing the idea that stores should open for two hours in the morning for oldies only. Initially that sounded like a good idea, but thinking on, how would that square with over 70’s isolation and how could you be certain the virus wasn’t in the air, or on shop surfaces etc.

    On top of their IT issues yesterday, brought on by high demand for deliveries, Ocado have posted that they’re no taking on any new customers and they’re working to increase delivery capacity. Their vans are highly specialised bits of kit so they must take a while to order extra and they’ll presumably try and get extra drivers, even if it’s just to cover those who go sick.

  33. @ Oldnat

    Haha. Some posters are funny, eg. Paul Croft (apart from the
    dog stuff).

    Allan
    “I still think the best course of action would be ask the over 70’s to self isolate for up to 4 years , cough, four months …” (Was the “cough bit” a joke.)

    “If they took all the old yins off the toads ..”

    The collected AC may not sell well.

    I notice we pay such close attention to his posts that we both spelt his name wrong.

  34. Bantams

    Thanks for the reports about the reality of this virus. Timely reminders. As you say, i know a few people who ‘think ‘ they’ve had it, but none confirmed.

    Actually, the NHS seems to have given up on testing. The advice being simply to ‘stay home and isolate for a week.’

  35. Alert: Apostrophe Atrocity

    There is a rash of “70’s” on this page (& the previous thread) referring to people in their eighth decade. It’s 70s. Standards must not slip.

  36. @Hireton – “Further evidence that the UK Government needs to get a grip on its communications strategy…”

    I do think that this anonymous briefing stuff is severely detrimental to the national interest.

    Last night’s ‘announcement’ that people are going to be incarcerated in their own homes for 4 months has been the spark that has ignited panic buying.

    Aside from the scenes of queues in shops and empty shelves, sitting down to organise our regular Sainsbury’s online delivery for next Tuesday, I find that there are no slots available for the next three weeks. Zero.

    Any vulnerable people seeking to self isolate for their own protection have now been totally shafted by some smart @rsed anonymous briefer. They’ve weeks to work up a plan to organise access to food for such people, but despite having claimed to be all over this, the industry is totally unprepared for these loose government briefings.

    And these are the people telling us that they understand behavioural science?

    Pathetic.

  37. Scotland not calling for extended isolation for the elderly, but care and reduced contact.

    From Jeanne Freeman (Scottish health Sec) on the mode of announcement –

    “It’s not how we would do it. Government’s should be coming and explaining these things really clearly.

    Overnight briefing, background briefing, unattributed sources is not the way to ensure that the public are understanding what we are trying to do and our working with us to do that.”

    From Sturgeon –

    “Giving clear and consistent information to public at the right time on #coronavirus is vital. Governments’ media strategies must reflect the importance of that. This is not a run of the mill political issue. @scotgov will set out advice to the public in an orderly manner.”

  38. @ CHARLES – “the speed and completeness with which contacts can be traced in different conditions”

    That WAS the key issue in moving from “contain” to “delay” and the whole issue around “putting the genie back in the bottle”.

    There is also the issue of “behaviour”

    As we see even in S.Korea where they have been very speedy and complete ability to “trace contacts” and probably a more “compliant” population[1] you just 1 person to kick off a new cluster and if you don’t isolate that new cluster very quickly then you can no longer “contain” the virus.

    I fully accept those kinds of ‘variables’ are outside of the maths and natural science realm. With Harry Hindsight then for sure we probably should have closed UK borders, ramped up testing, given police stronger powers (surveillance, arrest, lockdown, etc), etc BEFORE the virus got a grip in UK.

    However, now, today then we probably have 50-100,000[2] actual people with coronavirus in UK (still too low for full scale lockdown measures (as you’d then need to apply them for so much longer) but almost certainly far too high for UK to successfully apply “contact tracing” – hence why we moved to “delay”)

    PS There is then also the issue of ‘reimporting’ the virus given it is global (ie a pandemic).

    [1] That is an assumption but if we take France as a potential contrasting nation and consider AW’s thread header then how many French folks will “comply” 100% to Macron’s decrees (ie what tiny, tiny % of ‘new sparks’ could reignite the whole epidemic). That links into the timing issue of symptomatic, infectious, case “solved”, etc.

    [2] I’ve explained the maths before, happy to go over some of it again if folks are actually interested (although folks can find it for themselves quite easily via internet or going back through some of my posts on last thread)

    @ BANTAMS – and you’re far more likely to catch coronavirus in a busy warm pub than you would have been in a large outdoor stadium!

    I wonder how many of the folks in Dublin pubs kept a list of contacts of everyone else who was in the same pub as them in order for the authorities to be able to complete speedy “contact tracing” for any new cases (and facial recognition via CCTV etc is very time consuming and would probably need new police powers, would have an incomplete database, etc even if it could be complete and speedy)

  39. @Trevs – “With Harry Hindsight then for sure we probably should have closed UK borders, ramped up testing, given police stronger powers (surveillance, arrest, lockdown, etc), etc BEFORE the virus got a grip in UK. ”

    There you go – you’ve finally caught up.

    That is precisely what some of us were saying back when you spent your time giving unnecessary maths lectures (to people who understood this stuff well before you did) and who lent on that understanding to argue that we were being too slow to contain.

    In contrast, you opted to argue that going to hard too soon was counter productive.

    As you say, hindsight is a wonderful thing, but some people didn’t need hindsight to predict this outcome.

  40. @ PATRICKBRIAN

    If I see anything useful I’ll post it. We might all be able to help each other.

    I was confirmed with the virus on Friday after testing on Wednesday, still waiting to hear about the rest of the family now.

  41. @BANTAMS

    Best of luck with this, and for you family and friends

  42. From a professor of the evolution and epidemiology of infectious disease at Harvard, so clearly not someone who knows what he talking about:

    “I’m an epidemiologist. When I heard about Britain’s ‘herd immunity’ coronavirus plan, I thought it was satire”

    …..

    “About that second wave: let me be clear. Second waves are real things, and we have seen them in flu pandemics. This is not a flu pandemic. Flu rules do not apply. There might well be a second wave, I honestly don’t know. But vulnerable people should not be exposed to a virus right now in the service of a hypothetical future.”

    “However, arguments about the case fatality rate, the transmission parameters and presymptomatic transmission all miss the point. This virus is capable of shutting down countries. You should not want to be the next after Wuhan, Iran, Italy or Spain. In those places, the healthcare systems have broken down. In Italy, the choices of whom to save and whom to allow to die are real. You should instead look to the example of South Korea, which, through a combination of intense surveillance and social distancing, appears to have gained some semblance of control over the virus.”

    Full article here https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/15/epidemiologist-britain-herd-immunity-coronavirus-covid-19

    although it’s in the Grunge, so obviously must be patent nonsense.

    Perhaps worth noting that South Korea is being held up as the model example, with mass testing one of their big weapons.

    The UK has opted to restrict testing to only hospitalized cases. Notable experts, including the WHO, think this is completely wrong.

    Even if you are pursuing a herd immunity strategy – which the UK apparently isn’t – you need to test as many as possible to understand how widespread the infection has been, otherwise you won’t have a clear idea of when it is safe for vulnerable people to come out again.

  43. Charles said upthread “if I am right about the strategy, the [UK] government has done itself no favours by the way it has communicated it.”

    He’s right.

    In a rapidly evolving situation, no government can state with clarify changing strategies with precision, but they do have a duty to explain matters clearly once decisions have been made.

    In Scotland, we now know that routine Covid testing for those self-isolating has ceased

    https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/18306349.coronavirus-scottish-government-update-testing-policy-covid-19/

    Whether or not that is the “correct” decision may be a matter op argument, but we have a clear statement as to what is happening.

    On school closures, while no decision has been made, the strategy is clear and the practical details are being worked out between unions, authorities, SQA and Scottish Government.

    https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/18305169.coronavirus-scotland-scottish-schools-close-end-easter-break/

  44. England v Ireland

    Italians singing from their balconies. This reminded me of the answer an Irish friend of mine gave to my question long ago: what adjustments did you make when you came over in yr teens?

    She said: “In England I learned that when they sing at closing time, it means trouble: in small-town Ireland when they DON’T sing at closing time it means trouble.”

  45. @ ALEC – ?!?

    I was talking months not days AND that also assumes we knew months ago what we knew about 2weeks.

    Yet again you embarrass yourself with your ignorance of the FACTS and the basic concept of TIME.

    My comments on the maths started when it was clear that “contain” phase had come to an end. Vallance and co. mentioned that – did you miss that as well?

  46. @sda

    ‘A friend of ours is pushing the idea that stores should open for two hours in the morning for oldies only.’

    It seems that Carrefour have said that they will be adopting this policy in their stores worldwide.

  47. @Trevs –

    :)

  48. A sensible thread from Andy Burnham on government communications strategy during a health crisis.

    https://twitter.com/AndyBurnhamGM/status/1239144694627667969

  49. @ Alec

    Further to my post yesterday about government handling of shortages, your comment about delivery slots appears to be becoming commonplace. If you look at the supermarket accounts on twitter (those that show public questions) people are experiencing similar to you. Additionally you are seeing comments about people trying to organise a home delivery for an elderly relative and the responses are just to keep looking for slots or late cancellations.

    As you say, the announcement of self quarantine yesterday seems to have kicked most of my extended family into action- decisions made by elderly relatives to self isolate already, lots of stocking up and so on. The responses from the supermarkets on loo roll seem to be getting more and more vague, from “more in soon” to “working hard with our suppliers”.

    Several weeks ago I feel that government should already have controlled stocks of hand sanitisers with practical measures such that they all end up at GP surgeries or pharmacies and only available to at risk groups. They should be forcing supermarkets to prioritise elderly for home deliveries with a system of registration, and only opening slots to healthy people one or two days prior to delivery date such that at risk groups get first dips. The healthy can then fight over the slots like they would do for Adele tickets!

    Also instead of leaving the judgment to supermarkets the government should already have set limits per purchase. It is ridiculous shops have run out of loo paper when this is not something where there ought to be shortages and government should have stepped in when this panic was occurring.

    I know these things take a lot of Admin time but self isolation is only going to work if those at risk groups do not have to spend all day going around all the supermarkets to get the things they need.

  50. I’ll highlight was is IMO the key point in AW’s thread:

    “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”

    That was the risk in going too big, too early. Once ‘contact tracing’ was clearly unable to keep up then the focus shifted from “contain” to “delay”.

    It will be interesting to see how populations in countries such as France respond in a few weeks time if/when cases start to go down and they maybe think Macron’s decrees are excessive (or they’ve just a bit bored locked down in their apartment)?

    Of course you’d have to actually understand the maths and most of what we know about this virus (and viruses generally) to appreciate that issue – fortunately it appears that Whitty and Vallance does!

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