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.


2,305 Responses to “YouGov and Opinium polls on the government’s handling of the Coronavirus”

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  1. EOR

    Proper Scottish polling provides crossbreaks on “place of birth” as a surrogate for identity that can, at least be matched to known stats, to prevent distortion of the polling.

    I know that Scully asked YG if the same could be done for Wales, but it wasn’t felt to be appropriate. The reason wasn’t given, though there was a suggestion that the overlap of maternity services at the border may have been a factor.

    As you say, there has been an intuitive presumption that VI in Wales may be affected by the number of those who consider themselves English as opposed to British, but I think this is the first time that such has been polled (and even that is only indirectly by the party holding the seat in which they are resident).

    An unbiased polling approach (which Opinium’s clearly isn’t) would have adopted a similar approach to Scotland, where it might have been even more closely analysed via the place of birth and VI weightings.

    The data might be available as to the place of birth (though not the national identity) of those in the oil industry, but I don’t know of it.

    Moreno questions are useful, but in any attempt to measure attitudes across GB, they would need to be used consistently.

  2. @…so many people

    There have been a lot of posts about how stats between countries compare, often with people quite predictably selecting metrics and comparisons that, gosh, happen to show that the UK is doing really well, or gosh, that the UK is doing really badly.

    Well here’s one that I’ve been tracking myself amongst the most affected European countries cos it seemed interesting to me – time in days to get from 10 deaths, to 100 deaths, to 1000 deaths.

    ITALY 8 8 (Feb 25th, March 4th, March 12th)
    FRANCE 8 9 (March 7th, March 15th, March 24th)
    SPAIN 6 7 (March 7th, March 13th, March 20th)
    UK 8 8 (March 12th, March 20th, March 28th)

    Compared to those, Germany went from 10 deaths to 100 deaths in… 8 days, from March 15th to March 23rd, and are currently on the same track as France, Italy and the UK to get to 1000 deaths in 8 or 9 days, on March 31st or April 1st.

    So maybe, at this stage, those arguing that there’s meaning to be inferred from one or another European country’s approach to health spending and so forth are wishfully overreading just a tad?

    (source:www.worldometers.info/coronavirus – I appreciate that the caveats some folk have mentioned about different countries counting deaths in different ways could be relevant, but that just seems to reinforce my point about not drawing meaningful verdicts on healthcare systems from this data!)

  3. Have we had mention of this Opinium GB VI poll (via Europe Elects)

    CON-ECR: 54% (+7)
    LAB-S&D: 28% (-4)
    LDEM-RE: 6% (-1)
    GREENS-G/EFA: 3% (-1)

    +/- vs. 12-14 Feb 2020

    Fieldwork: 26-27 March 2020
    Sample size: 2,006

  4. Hugo
    “I suggest a National scheme, akin to National Service whereby students would be encouraged to ho to the likes of Lincolnshire to pick fruit.”

    Though I’m 69, I’ve put my name down to pick fruit part-time. There’s a website where you can sign up, but I forgot the link.
    ——————————-
    Somerjohn
    “But I’m unclear whether their origin lies with a Johnny Speight-style left-winger trying to create a parody of bone-headed right-wing British nationalism, ie Alf Garnett, ”

    Lest we forget, that show was very popular purely because of Alf Garnett, who expressed views that even in those days people felt unable to be open about in their daily lives.
    ——————————
    Turk
    “…not the nit picking pessimism that has come from some on the left.”

    And the right. May was less than inspiring.
    ———————-
    ON
    “Latest UKPR ad that I see is…”

    I didn’t know this site had ads.
    ————————–
    Edge of Reason
    ” If everyone in the world is in a 10, 15, 20% GDP crash, who on earth is going to care about clever spreadsheets “proving” Brexit has contributed to that?”

    Good point.

  5. @OLDNAT

    Proper Scottish polling provides crossbreaks on “place of birth” as a surrogate for identity that can, at least be matched to known stats, to prevent distortion of the polling.

    I know that Scully asked YG if the same could be done for Wales, but it wasn’t felt to be appropriate. The reason wasn’t given, though there was a suggestion that the overlap of maternity services at the border may have been a factor.

    Yes, that makes sense – once you get away from the M4 then the tendency of places on the English side of the border to be larger and better equpped is strong and probably would distort things.

    As you say, there has been an intuitive presumption that VI in Wales may be affected by the number of those who consider themselves English as opposed to British, but I think this is the first time that such has been polled (and even that is only indirectly by the party holding the seat in which they are resident).

    That’s not quite what I said, but it’s very similar. I meant it more the other way around, that if you look at the geography and the seats the Tories hold in Wales, they’re mostly in the places where you’d intuitively expect such English people who’ve migrated to have settled, and thus from that it’s no surprise that those seats show more English-identifying people. Whether there are anywhere near enough of them to make any impact on VI is a different question.

    The data might be available as to the place of birth (though not the national identity) of those in the oil industry, but I don’t know of it.

    Fair enough – I was speculating that whilst you’d (typically of many countries) expect many migrants to be fairly close to the border, there might also be a particular distortion from people who are imported to the north east to do particular jobs. But that’s a pure speculation.

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