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. One Must Have to Have Heart of Stone not to Laugh at This “Consumer Advice” Problem

    “I am semi-retiring this year, and decided to treat myself to a Rolex to celebrate. I picked out a Submariner [blah] & flew to Guernsey, where it was in stock at a Mappin & Webb store. Upon arrival, I tried on the watch, and agreed to buy it . . .she told me it was Rolex’s policy to remove all the tags. I insisted they were left on. While I went about checking with Rolex customer services . . . the saleswoman said that if I didn’t leave, she would call the police.”

  2. So Brits are acting irrationally and ignoring govt advice with panic buying and booking delivery slots.

    Question: Do we expect Brits to act rationally and follow govt advice (at near 100% consistency) with regards to lockdown and isolation protocols with a disease that most folks will only experience in a mild form – especially if/when we do appear[1] to have come off the crest of the 1st wave?


    [1] In that future parallel universe – one that I fully expect Vallance+co modelled given their expertise on viruses and application of mathematical modelling (maths being the ‘purest’ of all sciences)

  3. Trevor @Alec

    “Yet again you embarrass yourself with your ignorance…”

    Please. Please. Could we have a break from this sort of stuff? Meaningless personal attacks …… I don’t suppose Alec’s bothered, but I am.

  4. Well, the economic model of the government finance assume(d) rational behaviour of the people…


    Behavioural psychologists are having a field day. Just their stories are incompatible. Yet they are all good sounding, rational narratives.

  5. Some random thoughts on isolation for 70+.

    A lot of ladies gradually going greyer and hairdressers feeling a distinct pinch. Though at least the ladies won’t be exhibiting their greatness as they won’t be allowed out.

    Our local pub/restaurants and probably many others across the country being empty at lunchtime and many family party birthday meals not happening.

    Buses being even emptier than normal

    Demand for a refund of several months on Senior Railcards

    If your car is due an MOT test, what do you do?

    Your boiler needs an annual service to keep its warranty, what do you do?

    Cruise bookings plummet

    Coach holidays and rail tours cancelled

    Etc, etc

  6. Trevors:

    It`s not just some people acting irrationally, but the Johnson government.

    This order that is coming for the 70+ year olds in England to isolate themselves for 3 months, is over-the-top and stupid. And it seems to defy medical advice, such as coming from the CMO Dr Calderwood:

    “”Elderly people could soon be urged to “reduce social contact” to reduce to coronavirus infection, Scotland’s chief medical officer has said.

    But Dr Catherine Calderwood insisted over-70s would not be asked to isolate themselves unless they were ill.

    She said people in the higher risk age group might typically be expected to reduce social contact by about 75%.””

    I hope people in England will press hard for wiser, more-balanced instructions.

    I`ll be off to watch the rugby soon on Sky, and am wondering will many have stayed away. Those that do attend I hope will keep a good distance apart – I hear Spain saying never less than 1m and in the UK 2m has been often said.

  7. @patrickbrian – “I don’t suppose Alec’s bothered, but I am.”

    It does bother me, as it happens, and I have asked the @Trevs on repeated occasions to post in a more cordial spirit, to no avail.

    I’m interested in what anyone has to say on here, and I’ve learned things from pretty much all posters, but there are some things we could all do without.

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


    I’m sure many will say that those who gave such advice in February were doing so from the comfort of their homes, with much smugness etc.

    Sadly, my peers never gave me the opportunities to go to a fancy Uni, and gain the foothold to political power that the ‘well-educated’ Boris types gained.

    As such, we are consigned to a life of common sense. Flying moves people. People are carriers. Ergo, flying moves carriers. Stop flying, and you stop carriers.

    Easy peasy (or it would have minimised initial impacts and given everyone more time to prepare).

    Maybe Brexiteers should blame remainers for delaying the Full English Brexit since 2016, and the closing of the borders (not that it would have changed anything, as the carriers are not immigrants).

    To quote my late Dad. “Ah well.” (which said so much in so many ways) :D

  9. Harry Hindsight.

    So, let’s play:

    1/ Pick the[1] date you’d travel back to and make changes to HMG response.

    2/ List up to three things you’d change

    3/ Estimate public reaction (possibly with reference to the very recent polling AW has provided)

    [1] Only 1 date per go, but you can play more than once.


    I’ll go first.

    1/ 1Feb’20 and here’s link to explain why:

    2a/ Stop all travel to/from any country (or broader region if it has open borders) with cases of COVID-19 (eg all Schengen countries)

    b/ Rapidly increase UK ability to cope with an outbreak (eg start buying up every ventilator we can get our hands on and get companies to ramp up production)

    c/ Pass various new laws to give Police additional powers for if/when they would need them.

    3/ Outrage at what would have appeared at the time (1Feb) to be a massive over-reaction but oh wouldn’t we all be thanking Boris now!
    (actually apparently we still wouldn’t ALL be thanking Boris if you look at the polling AW provided – but then a few days have passed since the fieldwork for those polls so I would guess some responses have changed)

  10. More detail on the Scottish plan for us wrinklies

    Scotland is not planning on isolating over-70s over coronavirus fears, the country’s Health Secretary has said, amid criticism of the UK Government’s communication and strategy.
    The UK’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that elderly people are likely to be asked to self-isolate for up to four months – news that emerged from anonymous briefings.
    However, Jeane Freeman, his counterpart in Scotland, said the Scottish Government were not planning on isolating the elderly but would instead be “asking them to reduce social contact”.

    Mr Hancock described the plans for over-70s to be forced to stay at home as a “very big ask”, but said it is a measure for their own “self-protection”.

    Asked about whether Scotland would follow suit, Ms Freeman said: “The additional measures that we’ve always talked about are about reducing contact for those over 70 and in their eighties, asking them to reduce their social contact because they are one of the groups who are most at risk of this virus making them seriously ill.

    “The other group is people who have underlying health conditions whose immune system is suppressed.

    “It’s not isolation, it’s asking them to reduce social contact.

    “We don’t want people who are elderly to be stuck in their homes alone not contacting anyone, with their families not able to be in touch with them and to help them.

    “What we’re saying to them is, reduce your contact.”

    On less important matters, it’s annoying for those of us living in Scotland, Wales or NI hearing careless and inaccurate statements from London about policies that don’t apply to us being described as “UK”.

    On serious matters like Covid, it is a disgrace that the UK Government operates in such a shoddy way.

  11. @ OldNat

    I wondered how long it would take for politics to stick its unwanted nose into the most serious health issue these islands have faced in a very long time….. I find it all very sad.


    @”I wondered how long it would take for politics to stick its unwanted nose into the most serious health issue these islands have faced in a very long time….. I find it all very sad.”

    Well said.

    This board has descended into AW’s cesspit well & truly.

    Sorry to hear your symptoms returned. This is clearly a nasty little brute & I hope you recover soon.

    We caught the sunshine this afternoon-what a balm & comfort-and all that lovely vitamin D :-)

  13. Bantams


    The issue is the communications strategy of the UK Government. Is that to be beyond reproach?

    The control strategies are largely common between all four governments of the UK, and they are trying to keep it that way, but when Hancock et al “deliver” messages on changes so incompetently, that confuses, not clarifies matters.

  14. @bantams

    “I wondered how long it would take for politics to stick its unwanted nose…”

    It’s not politics, is it? It’s asking for basic respect for the constitutional arrangements of the UK in respect of the powers and responsibilities of the devolved administrations and and clarity from the UK Government in its communications when it is acting as the English administration.

  15. Colin

    I take it you disapprove of Burnham’s comments on communications strategy that I linked to earlier?

    You must have felt dismayed when Johnson, Soubry et al chose to introduce partisan party politics after the latest COBRA meeting, but just forgot to mention it?

  16. SDA

    “If your car is due an MOT test, what do you do?

    Your boiler needs an annual service to keep its warranty, what do you do?”

    Both of those apply to me. I have just made an appointment to get my boiler serviced. The earliest date I could get is 21st May.

    The garage will come and pick the car up and drop it off.

  17. FWIW [1] The Scots numbers in the Opinium poll were

    SNP 53% : SCon 29% : SLab 13% : SGP 4% SLD 1% : BxP 0%

    I think the SLD numbers are a little low.

    [1] Not much from an internally unweighted sample of 95! – but they are much in line with other crossbreaks this year.

  18. @ Hireton

    We all want to save lives, that’s the only thing that matters at the end of the day.

  19. So, who thinks that brexit at the end of this year is now essentially impossible?

  20. @bantams

    Indeed, which is why the UK Government’s communications strategy of anonymously briefing selected journalists with inaccurate information is reprehensible, lack of clarity as to when their announcements apply only to England is unprofessional, and why theScottish Government has a duty to deploy the current UK wide strategy in way which is best for Scotland.

  21. Bantams

    “We all want to save lives”

    Though maybe the US administration takes a rather narrow view of which lives should be saved.

    Stockpiling Trump-style – don’t just buy all the vaccines – buy the company with potential to make it!

  22. Danny
    No-one except you.

  23. @BANTAMS

    “I wondered how long it would take for politics to stick its unwanted nose into the most serious health issue these islands have faced in a very long time….. I find it all very sad.”

    Health issues ARE political. We are about to find out how severely CON cuts to the NHS over the last 10 years are going to impact our increasingly elderly population (who disproportionately voted for them!).

  24. From the BBC News website:
    ‘Every Briton over the age of 70 will be told “within the coming weeks” to stay at home for an extended period to shield them from coronavirus, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.’

    If it’s going to help shield us oldies, why wait several weeks, why not announce it now?

  25. @ OldNat

    Is there an election in the USA in the near future……….or will it be postponed?

  26. Number of tests down from 5,000 to 3,000 in the latest figures.

    Really looks like the testing is going the wrong way, and raises some questions about the reduced level of new infections reported today.

    Quite a few of the academic experts are raising a long standing complaint that UK emergency preparedness planning is shrouded in secrecy, with planning procedures kept hidden even from academic researchers. It sometimes makes it very hard to assess what the purpose and basis of policies are.

    I think there are a lot of questions being asked specifically about the testing policy, particularly as the next stage of the response after delay is research (although this goes on throughout).

    All the global experts are saying we have to test on a large scale, but we are choosing not to, and no one can really offer an explanation as to why this is.

  27. @ Bantams
    Most people are quick to to detect other people’s bias or ideological mounting but incapable of recognising such things in themselves. The discussion of this subject, like virtually every other, has been politicised from the beginning. Those who claim to be neutral or above such partiality are kidding themselves.

  28. Ps. People are also entitled to judge the preparedness of the NHS in view of 10 years of what appears to have been inadequate funding.

  29. Bantams

    “Is there an election in the USA in the near future……….or will it be postponed?”

    I suspect the Trump team have already been working on a plan to save the American people from disaster by cancelling the election.

    Governments taking “Emergency Powers” in response to crises always worries me. When the crisis is over, they are often reluctant to give up the powers.

  30. As the Scottish mafia appear to be on-site this afternoon can they comment on XR’s concern over the proposed Space Port in Sutherland. It’s the first I’ve heard of it & I’d be interested to hear yr views if it’s been discussed up yr way.

  31. @ Norbold

    Because some of you old grumps need a few weeks for big changes to sink in :)

  32. Intensive care doctors will have to choose who lives as coronavirus cases threaten to overwhelm hospitals

    Jonathan Leake, Science Editor
    Sunday March 15 2020, 12.01am
    The Sunday Times

    “The chronic shortage of intensive-care beds and kit could soon force hospitals to introduce a triage system, where some patients are denied specialised care because their chances of survival are deemed too low, doctors have warned.

    The UK has just 6.6 intensive care beds per 100,000 people, half the number in Italy and about a fifth of that in Germany.

    If the rate of infections keeps growing, the NHS could run short of intensive-care places and equipment by the end of March. This weekend the NHS was aiming to expand many units to roughly double the current 4,250 beds to more than 8,000.

    Many hospitals, however, may struggle to equip them, especially with ventilators, because other countries have already ordered so many.”

  33. The reaction to reports that Richard Branson wants Boris Johnson to sanction a £7.5bn bailout for Virgin Airlines suggest that the public are not enthralled by the idea.

    Has the idea been polled on yet?

    When we passed Prestwick Airport yesterday, there were a lot of mothballed planes being stored there, and I imagine the same is true of other underused airports.

    There will be a lot of planes (and experienced staff) available for new start up companies – including state owned ones.

    Paying the pensions of VA’s unemployed staff (including Flybe) when it turns out that their pension pots have disappeared might be a reasonable course of action though.

  34. “As the Scottish mafia appear to be on-site this afternoon can they comment on XR’s concern over the proposed Space Port in Sutherland. It’s the first I’ve heard of it…”



  35. @ OldNat

    Are you dreaming of reviving Air Scotia using some of Branson’s planes? :)

  36. @ OldNat

    Are you dreaming of reviving Air Scotia using some of Branson’s planes? :)

    “Oh deary me!”

  37. Old Nat
    Didn’t I read in the earlier thread that any change to the US presidential election date has to be voted on by Congress. I wonder how the controlling Democrats would view the possibility?

  38. Robbie Alive

    We made them an offer which they can’t refuse. :-)

    The A’Mhoine peninsula spaceport site was selected as the best site by the UK Space Agency for rocket satellite launches.

    The environmental concern for the destruction of peat deposits is a reasonable one, which the Agency may not have taken into account. Whether A’Mhoine is better or worse in that respect than the other proposed Scottish sites in Shetland and North Uist, I don’t know. Perhaps Davwel does.

    AFAIK, Extinction Rebellion also oppose the development of horizontal launch sites as are proposed for a variety of places like Prestwick and Cornwall.

  39. Caledonian Airways anyone?

  40. SDA

    Nixon’s campaign team [1] were working on plans to change the maximum 2-term rule. Politicians, and their advisers often have bizarre plans to keep themselves in power.

    [1] Appropriately called CREEP (Committee to Re-Elect the President)

  41. @ DAVWEL – I fully accept all the points regarding confusing messages and would endorse the points in the following link concerning single[1] voice and message, etc:

    “A single figure to lead on communications, rather than different voices appearing in the media saying different things”

    However, there is no “order” (not yet anyway). If you didn’t watch Hancock on Sky this morning then you see the bit you missed in this link, or just take the ‘paraphrased version’:

    “over-70s will be asked to self-isolate “in the coming weeks” to try to protect them from coronavirus – and it could potentially last for months”

    I hope you appreciate that misreporting, rumours, etc are not helpful.

    [1] Either Hancock or Boris in my polity. If Hancock then there is an issue regarding devolved nations as Hancock wears more than one hat. If he is speaking on behalf of NHS England then where that differs to @scotgov and there responsibility for NHS Scotland then there is a “mixed messages” risk for your polity.

  42. I detect a degree of condescension among some of our southern brethren that somewhere as small and poor as Scotland could possibly have its own airline.

    Perhaps they have never flown on Icelandair? Even closer to home is Atlantic Airways.

  43. norbold,
    “if it’s going to help shield us oldies, why wait several weeks, why not announce it now”

    so there is time for oldies to panic buy and stock up.

    “All the global experts are saying we have to test on a large scale, but we are choosing not to, and no one can really offer an explanation as to why this ”

    there isn’t any point. save the tests for when we need to sort millions of I feted and not.

  44. No condescension here. As an avid aircraft ‘spotter’ in my teens I loved Caledonian, which, IIRC morphed into being British Caledonian after being taken over by Freddie Lakers British United Airways.

  45. @ OldNat

    I told you, Air Scotia, one of the best comedies ever to grace the BBC. A degree of condescension……never! The High Life.

    Thank you, you’ve cheered my miserable day up! Just found an old episode to watch.

  46. “France bets on “group immunity” to stop the coronavirus”

    It is by reading between the lines of the solemn speech of the President of the Republic Thursday evening that one can get an idea of ??the strategic choice made behind the scenes. In declaring that the current Covid-19 epidemic was “the most serious health crisis that France has known for more than a century” , Emmanuel Macron obviously planned for the future. Because with 3661 cases identified and 79 dead on Thursday, it is not the current situation that is dramatic, but the one that awaits us: millions of people infected, hundreds of thousands of serious cases, and tens of thousands of deaths potential.

    In other words, a decision was made to let the epidemic run its course and not try to stop it suddenly. This does not mean doing nothing: the authorities are now putting all their energy into slowing the spread of the virus to avoid congestion in the emergency services . It is a question of “smoothing out” the epidemic curve, by limiting contacts”

    Le Figaro
    13 March 2020

  47. HMG’s battle plan from 3March for those that missed it:

    I’d draw attention to point 3.6, page 10 “response to new information to ensure a flexible and proportionate response”

    Most of page 10 worth reading twice, point 3.9 maybe thrice.

  48. “As the Scottish mafia appear to be on-site this afternoon”

    The DM comments section is that way >>>

  49. SDA

    Thanks. Whether the old model of smaller airline companies will turn out to be better than the current (collapsing) system of giant conglomerates, we’ll need to wait and see.

    Sustaining the likes of Virgin Atlantic, when their economic base has crashed would appear to be a poor use of public funds, in what may become a very different world for mass passenger transport.

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