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. Like the tone of this –

    Thinking seems to be a bit more German, based on controlling disease vectors, and it seems the explicit ‘herd splitting’ ideas have been binned as (quite rightly) unworkable.

    There still seems to be some tensions within government, which is unsurprising, given the difficulties, but if it is true that Whitty now favours a tighter approach while Johnson is pushing a much looser policy, the relationship between PM and scientists might become somewhat strained.

  2. @Danny

    Here we go. When the facts don’t follow the hypothesis, the basis of the hypothesis, just like the Brexit hypothesis, gets redrafted to suit the facts:

    “my concern is that this may ultimately backfire when it becomes evident is was indeed propaganda. not I would think if the final outcome is good. but if it results in serious errors leading to more deaths or huge unnecessary costs, then political trouble ahead. however… so far so good, government seems to have been seeking to achieve herd immunity as fast as possible, which seems the best course.”

    The key words here are” seeking… herd immunity as fast as possible”.

    I’d be really interested to read why you believe that any Government is doing to achieve that?

    Thank God we live in an open democratic state with a free press so we hold the feet of herd immunity advocates to the fire of public opinion.

  3. @ OldNat

    On Porton Down, they have been doing a huge countywide survey on coronavirus using a wide demographic, the results of which should be released sometime next week. I read that it has been carried out in a way that should tell us accurately how many people have been infected so far.

  4. @ Peter Cairns (SNP)

    You’ve just used two posts up with the same words!

    Too soon?

  5. I would love to drive 60 miles to see my parents but abide by the rules. Vital medicine is a poor excuse as others can do for them and he knows it. He should go.

  6. @ Jim Jam

    A bad smell of politics again! I suspect many MP’s of all parties have driven, flown, bussed & railed to their constituency home from Westminster and probably some back again since the lockdown started. How did the 2 politicians on QT tonight get home and which home was it? Rachel Reeves lives in Leeds and t’other guy in Great Yarmouth. Was it necessary for them to be in the studio? They might have to go :|)

    Again it’s really being really po faced to say delivering food and medicine to his elderly parents isn’t necessary, he didn’t enter the house but left everything on the doorstep. The father is extremely vulnerable under the new guidelines so is locked down for 3 months.

    Let’s get a sense of proportion here, it’s nothing like the 600 house parties held in Greater Manchester last weekend or the caravan convoy travelling down the M5 yesterday.

  7. Bantams but when many many people like me are not seeing our elderly parents as we abide by the rules it is wrong.
    If I did what he did and was stopped on the way there or back I would be cautioned at the very least.

  8. @ Jim Jam

    I really don’t think you would be cautioned because common sense would prevail, especially if medication is involved.

  9. @JimJam

    That Momentum story isn’t surprising. Schisms amongst the far Left are de rigeur and their natural behaviour is to fight like ferrets in a sack. Normal service is being resumed in a way. Can’t see this bothering Starmer too much and it may actually help him in the long run.

    On Jenwick, I think it’s a few rungs down from the Scottish CMO’s indiscretions. He was dropping off medical supplies to his parents, she was decamping to her holiday home. Not once but twice too. Minor indiscretion for me and I might be inclined to keep him in post for now.

    If he’s a decent Minister, on top of his brief, do we necessarily want to destabilise the Government in the midst of a national emergency?

  10. Maybe I am over sensitive as I have not been able to travel to see my parents due to following the rules as the cabinet minister flouts them.

    How many people might do a Jenrick this weekend?

  11. It’s hard to know for sure. Depends on what other options were available for supporting his parents.

    Travel to care for a vulnerable person is within the rules if it is necessary. The necessity will be circumstantial.

    I have to say, though, I am a little sceptical that the good people of Herefordshire haven’t rallied around to protect and assist vulnerable people. The people of Plymouth certainly have.

    No doubt journos will be digging a little into those circumstances. If it turns out the “necessary” trip to his parents was just cover to visit his country home then he’ll have to go. He can always get reappointed to cabinet later, when this has all died down, but Jim Jam’s right. We can’t loosen the reins and give people an excuse to ignore the rules.

  12. It seems to be common for politicians to think “we’ll make rules for the little people, but obviously they don’t apply to us”.

    There have been cases in England, Scotland, Australia, the US and plenty of others I’m sure. If the rozzers are clamping down on people sunbathing while a reasonable distance from others, they should throw the book at politicians of whatever party or nation who blatantly flout the rules that the rest of us are supposed to abide by.

  13. @Bantams – never fail to back a Conservative MP!

    Likewise yesterday, you rather jumped down my throat when I pointed out that other countries have licensed serological tests that are already being used and producing good results, where you cherry picked a statistic of ‘just’ 87% accuracy for one of the two antigens, while ignoring the 97% accuracy for the other antibody.

    While you were looking at testing efficacy with such a critical eye, you might have pondered why the UK government is relying on testing for live Covid 19 with a test that has an accuracy of just 70%, with an estimated 30% false negative?

    The answer is that this is all we’ve got, which is fine, but again, this mini episode shows that posters who are very quick to shoot someone down for not following the patriotic line, claiming they are being overly partisan, are actually displaying their own partisanship by closing off to new, independent information.

  14. bantams,

    the Porton Down news is interesting. not exactly news because the health minister went on about it last week. But was it yesterday whoever was spokesman refused to comment on results so far, which there must be and which must have been given to ministers. the likely result given what we already know from the king’s study and also from Germany is a finding of significant immunity building up on the back of millions of cases so far. my guesstimate was 20 million.

    The government has been engaged in a propaganda campaign exaggerating the risks of the virus, which is all very well until someone stands up and says the emperors magical clothes don’t exist and he is naked. What they need is a defining moment giving them the scientific excuse to change tack. Porton Down has been set up as a centre of excellence: what better justification for starting to release lockdown than the glad and unexpected news of significant herd immunity already. and then it will be propitious to discover a mass antibody test which works and start it’s general use.

    Can’t delay this too long because sooner rather than later Sweden will have cases falling despite inaction, and Germany will not be the only one producing results of high percentages immune.

  15. @ Alec

    The efficacy comes from having the swab shoved so far up your nose they collect a little of your brain material as well as snot and then the inside of your mouth, back of your tongue and back of your throat. Not pleasant but they said the efficacy is considerably reduced if they don’t do it, an expert on a program last night said the test was extremely accurate if carried out properly.

  16. Awan Scully’s Welsh poll the other day shows the Tories now 12pc ahead of Labour in the principality, both Labour and Welsh Nationalists going backwards.
    Usual caveats about polls during this National Emergency, but seismic all the same

  17. I found this encouraging. To hear someone of Sir John Bell’s authority talking about the work going on, both here and across the globe was uplifting.

    He indicates a truly global effort-including to find an existing drug which would keep the infected out of Intensive Care.

    go to 0735

  18. Re: politeness on UKPR, I lurk here a lot and post little (I know little about epidemiology and would not care to expose my ignorance to the experts on here) but I am afraid I cannot agree that this site has become more polite (although I exempt Crossbat XI as he does appear to have been overcome with nostalgia which has mellowed his posting and moved me on occasion) Colin has become, if that were possible, more of a curmudgeon, Oldnat has become more pernickity about less and less, Bantams (congrats on the recovery by the way) holds any minor comment about GB as a massive slight on his beloved Blighty, Alec, never has the term “Smart Alec” seemed more appropriate, the Trevs are like HMG’s propaganda dept. on steroids, with added hysteria, Danny appears to live in a parallel universe and Neil A who normally appears rational, although ROC and a Rozzer to boot (I believe that to be the current UKPR term for a constable {of whatever rank} in the Police services) has appeared to be somewhat irascible. The comparison with WWII has been, and continues to be, made in the press and elsewhere with this crisis, and whilst some on UKPR appear to by carrying on an absence of the keeping calm element is evident.
    Meanwhile in the real world ordinary people are risking their lives, literally, to help others. Scientists, politicians, civil servants, engineers and a innumerable others are breaking their backs looking for solutions. It is a time for sober reflection and not self indulgent hyperbole.
    I made the grave error at the outset of this crisis of not considering it to be serious, the product of having grown up with the permanent threat of the cold war and nuclear destruction which never materialised. I was wrong, about as wrong as it is possible to be and for a time I began to panic and start to have the Private Frazer attitude to doom. I am now approaching daily living with a vague sense of dread but with that bizarre sense of optimism I seem to have had throughout my life. So despite the, I hope, humorous petty insults above, I consider you all to be important, so keep well, carry on, but it is worth calming down, I have and it helps:-)

    On a separate point——–Re: Student accommodation

    An acquaintance of mine had a theory, expounded a few months ago towards the end of a long evening in the pub, which in the current circumstances might well prove to be right (if only in the way a stopped clock is right). His thesis was:
    “the council is granting planning permission for all these student blocks because it knows in a short time it will all go bust and they will buy it up for council housing”.

  19. I had wished to give Starmer and his team a sporting chance but after only a few days, the heavily euro fanatical shadow cabinet is reverting to type. The shadow chancellor says we must avoid a chaotic exit at the end of the year and should be liaising with our “EU partners “.
    They just don’t get it…..we left in January and are now negotiating our trading arrangements.
    They are falling into the trap of fighting the last war and , if he is not careful, Starmer will be the new Ed Miliband, a well meaning but idealistic egg head who will flatter to deceive.

  20. The YG Live question on 20-30y olds was inspired by this research from Warwick University:

    “Releasing young adults could be best route out of lockdown”

    and Resolution Foundation have a piece on:

    “The economic effects of coronavirus in the UK”

  21. @ Alec

    On Jenrick I’m just applying common sense to the specific requirements of looking after elderly parents. It quite clearly covers this in the guidelines, Jim Jam take note if your parents need help. If it comes to light there’s more to the story then I’ll revise my opinion.

    A few of the cabinet members will be expected to present the daily medical updates at Downing Street, I think we should allow them some slack in terms of living with their families. Dom Raab, Matt Hancock and Rishi Sunak will all have chauffeurs and personal security but will Jenrick as housing minister.

  22. @Bantams – “The efficacy comes from having the swab shoved so far up your nose they collect a little of your brain material…”

    Hmmm….I’m not sure they actually touch your brain, but who knows. Certainly, the efficacy depends on the sampling, but the reported efficacy is what it is. We get on average around 30% false negatives, but we think that’s fine for what we need.

    It still makes the apparent rejection of a serological test with a 97% accuracy rating a bit odd, just because it was developed first by another country, has been approved for use in the US and elsewhere, and is already producing some good quality data in Germany.

    It’s almost as if people are looking for ways to denigrate the efforts of foreign scientists, who are, like their British counter parts, putting in a massive and brilliant shift in this multi national, global knowledge effort to help humanity defeat coronavirus.

    I find the grudging acknowledgement (or lack of it) of this global effort by some British Conservative posters quite depressing. I’m happy to celebrate brilliant science from the UK, and anywhere else.

    Does it really matter that another country developed a good test before we did? Or can we not just celebrate the collective effort to try and save lives?

  23. A very perceptive summary WB61, you seem have run through exactly the same gamut of feelings about this outbreak as I have.

    Your friend’s local authority theory can rank alongside giving planning for large developments on the edge of their fiefdom, abutting a neighbouring authorities existing conurbation. Thus earning all the council tax, but not having to provide all the infrastructure to support the increased population. Or allowing development on flood plains because it yields substantial council tax.

  24. The Times again reporting on problems in Scotland with the business grants distributions.
    The Scots government will not give multiple payments to multiple properties as in England and Wales.
    They say they will therefore give money to a wider number of businesses.
    It appears they just want to be “different “.
    On the whole, I think Sturgeon has been a team player during the Emergency but there lingers this addiction to be chippy which sadly comes across as needy and undoes a lot of the otherwise good work.

  25. @colin – that’s the one – many thanks.

    I also heard JB. I think quite early on I posted my feeling that we will be surprised with how quickly we get a vaccine. I still think that, but it’s not based particularly on logic, more hope. But the massive effort across borders and beyond politics amongst the science community is impressive and life affirming.

    I do think that we will see many advances come from this, and the lesson of how we can collaborate in a deadly crisis has lessons we can apply in many other fields.

  26. Hugo

    “I had wished to give Starmer and his team a sporting chance…”

    As the old saying goes, If you believe that, etc.

  27. Hugo

    So a ‘chaotic exit’ from our trading and other relationships with the EU in January is OK with you, especially in addition to the damage done by Covid 19. Mmmmmmm that’s sensible – not. I think you may be the one fighting an old battle, but, in what I believe is armed forces language, it’s blue on blue.

  28. @Trevs – That Warwick briefing note is interesting, in terms of the numbers and general thinking, but I would have to say pretty deeply flawed in it’s conception of enforcement and public health.

    You’ve misrepresented their proposal, which is not “releasing the young from lockdown”. They are arguing for “releasing those aged 20-30 that do not live with older citizens”. That immediately creates an enforcement issue, albeit probably one that affects relatively few people, but the far bigger issue will be those age 30 or above. They talk about police enforcement, but I really can’t see how you would police this, and the risk of total breakdown of restrictions once one age group is released would be pretty high.

    The better approach is the one the government seems to be taking anyway, which is to examine activities and sectors, and reopen those that are deemed to be low risk, while retaining restrictions on activities that carry a high risk of spread. This is far more sensible from an epidemiological angle, and also far easier to monitor and police.

    Splitting the activities is much easier than splitting the herd.

  29. Iz’s rendition of this song makes this so beautiful:-

  30. WB61

    @” I am afraid I cannot agree that this site has become more polite”

    @” Neil A who normally appears rational, although ROC ”

    A yes-a point so succinctly exampled

  31. ALEC

    @” the massive effort across borders and beyond politics amongst the science community is impressive and life affirming.”

    Agreed. It is what we all have to rely on.

  32. Worth noting that in the interview with Prof John Bell that @Colin linked to above, the Prof gave a cautious view that the current rates of infection in the UK were probably somewhere below 10%. He didn’t want to get drawn into a discussion outside hos main area, but it does sound like the developing consensus is around much lower levels of infection than the Oxford modellers first thought.

  33. ALEC

    Glad you mentioned that -Vallance gave a similar opinion in the PC yesterday.

    I assume they are all looking at the same global evidence as it emerges.

    I don’t want to prompt an uninformed echange about epidemiology-but I wonder if this is really good news -or bad?

  34. Hugo

    Thanks for the reminder re the Welsh poll.

    The link to Scully’s article is here.

    As to your It appears they just want to be “different “. I thing you are being unfair to the UK Government as it wears its English hat.

    They will probably have worked out that the pattern of business in England is a little different to that in Scotland, so will have developed their own set of guidelines, rather than accept ones from another polity that are inappropriate to their circumstances.

    I strongly support England’s right to take its own decisions about its local affairs.

  35. @ ALEC – I quoted the title of the piece and I said it was the inspiration behind the YG Live poll question on 20-30y olds.

    The poll finding was net 61% opposed

    and of course: “The better approach is the one the government seems to be taking anyway, which is to examine activities and sectors, and reopen those that are deemed to be low risk”

    Some other govts have announced their ‘Exit Strategy’ and it’s along lines of your “epiphany”. We hope UK govt will follow the Science but you say “better approach..seems to be taking anyway” so I assume you have some sources to back that up?

    I’d like to see the approach the government is taking (with Keir on that one!) and expect lots of others would as well.

    I look forward to you providing the source info to the approach we seem to be taking anyway.

  36. @ ALEC – “much lower levels of infection than the Oxford modellers first thought.’

    You still haven’t read or understood that analysis then.

  37. @ Colin

    As I said curmudgeon, you don’t recognise humour, ever!

  38. @ Alec

    So 90% ish still to go which until we get an effective vaccine means we need to run a very efficient tracing and quarantining regime once the first wave is suppressed or herd immunity with the consequential deaths or a very hit and miss reduction in lockdown with more waves of localised infection. Anything else.

  39. Ipsos-MORI poll on ideas about Covid-19

    While there is a clear understanding of the threat from coronavirus among most, and good understanding of the main responses required, there are still widespread misperceptions, including:
    A quarter believe the conspiracy theory that the virus was probably created in a lab.

    One in seven (15%) still think people are more likely to die from seasonal flu than coronavirus, while the large majority of scientific estimates suggest that the latter is more deadly.

    One in 10 believe they should visit elderly relatives in their homes to check on them.

    Two in five (39%) think they should be shopping “little and often”.

  40. @ Bantams

    Re Jenrick- well he made the front of the Daily Mail so I guess he will have to go now. I do wonder with the murky world of tabloids whether they just get a story they love and run with it or whether political preferences are involved in which politicians they will go for.

    I’ve got sympathy on a personal level for Jenrick just as I had for the Kinnocks a couple of weeks ago. I don’t think the medicines/essential items holds as an excuse though and if people like JIm Jam are abiding by the rules then a government minister absolutely should be.

    It doesn’t seem like a huge crime but I guess the rules are there for a reason and a combination of giving people who are not abiding by social distancing an excuse, busier roads making it harder for the police to police, non essential travel and more stops at petrol stations as a result etc etc.

    Rather like Lebleuw’s park bench it becomes the tip of the iceberg and it will probably do a lot of good for enforcing social distancing if the public see a government minister sacked and realise they too have to take it seriously. I’d feel a bit sorry for him when all he wants to do is see his parents but probably has to go.

  41. @Colin – “I don’t want to prompt an uninformed echange about epidemiology-but I wonder if this is really good news -or bad?”

    I don’t know either. One the one hand, very little herd immunity, and the potential for massive hospitalisation in trying to get there, but on the other, perhaps it really is harder to catch than we think and eradication an easier option than was thought.

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

  42. Shame about Jenrick, as he has been an effective government communicator, complete with an impressive bookcase in the background.

    It will probably come down to the detail.

  43. @Trevs – “You still haven’t read or understood that analysis then.”

    Obviously not. I was going by what you said, on March 26th, when you said:

    “No one who went skiing is apres ski capital of the World is an introvert so fair to assume the reproduction rate isn’t much below the 1.3x level

    67 days since then. 1.3^67 = 43million cases in UK
    (and that’s just UK – plenty of Euro types would have skied in Ischgl, popular with the Dutch for sure)

    That would imply Oxford’s number of 50% herd immunity is on the LOW side (ie the fatality rate for COVID-19 is far lower than assumed by ICL et al)

    I’ll keep the bunting locked away until we get the serology testing to confirm how high herd immunity already is, but if anyone else has an explanation for how you get from 19Jan to today with so few deaths (and I appreciate any death is a tragedy) then show me the maths!”

    So I took it when you said “..Oxford’s number of 50% herd immunity is on the LOW side ” that you meant that Oxford’s number was 50% herd immunity and it was on the low side.

    Apologies for my mistake. I’m sure you can appreciate that it was an easy mistake to make.

  44. Mail on line apparently saying Jenrick went to his other home on route to his parents.

    Any possibility oh him toughing it out goes if that is true.

    Millie – agree he comes across as one of the more capable ministers, not appointed for Brexit Zeal, but if he breaks or even stretches the rules he has to go.

  45. I think Jenrick has technically not really done anything wrong, but his position is difficult to defend.

    According to the law, there is no actual limit to how far you can travel, the time you spend outside, or the definition of emergency for things like delivering food and medicine.

    But there is also no technical law to stop people walking in parks, or taking their families to the Lake District for a walk, yet police are moving people on, mounting road blocks on main roads, and telling people not to travel.

    This lockdown will stand or fall on the ‘all in it together’ mantra, but if bending interpretations is seen as fine for the ministers and CMO’s, then it makes the police’s role of applying sensible interpretations to the rest of use very difficult indeed.

    Given this, I do think Jenrick should do the right thing and fall on his sword. In most respects he seems to have done a decent job, so he won’t be out for long.

  46. @Alec

    “Splitting the activities is much easier than splitting the herd.”

    Absolutely agree.

    All for a sensible and phased release of lockdown.

    And further to other posts, an overall infection rate of less than 10% and a transmission rate of 0.6 with social distancing and hygiene, this will be eradicated.

  47. @Millie

    “Shame about Jenrick, as he has been an effective government communicator, complete with an impressive bookcase in the background.”

    Like that. Made me chuckle. Chuckles are therapeutic right now.

    You must be like me a bit. In these Zoom/Skpe times, when politicians are often beamed live from their living rooms, I tend to quite often be more interested in their background bookcases rather than the person him/herself. Spot the copy of 50 Shades of Grey time! Or Marxism today, even.


    Good to hear from you. I was interested in your outsider looking in UKPR observations. I’ll take your impressions of me and they’re probably true, as are many of yours about other regular posters too. We’ve probably, in our shrunken and dwindling group, tended to mark our own homework a bit and it’s useful to be told at times what the hell it all looks and feels like to non-participating observers and lurkers. Mr Wells went AWOL some time ago and I have a feeling, that many of us, myself included, would have been kicked into touch, temporarily or maybe permanently, in the heavily moderated UKPR era. I see some posts go sailing through now and think, “Wow, did he/she really say that? Crikes”. I’ve sinned too and I think it’s best not to be too judgemental. We’ve become more Wild West than cultivated East Coast, I fear! The site’s the poorer for it in my view, but it is what it is. Some posters prefer it this way maybe.

    I caught a glimpse of this bit of recent research on the pandemic that I thought was interesting. It suggests that the coronavirus has mutated into 3 forms as the pandemic has progressed. I’m no genome sequencing man, let alone an epidemiologist, but I’m assuming this creates further challenges for all those quiet heroes battling to find a safe vaccine.

    Again, God speed to those people in their various laboratories. I think they may well have the future of our world in their hands.

  48. WB61

    When it comes to self awareness old chap-I’m surprised that you lecture others.

    ….but then , if memory serves, you are a member of the legal profession ?

    :-) :-) :-)

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