London based online market research agency FlyResearch has been issuing weekly polls to its research panel of over 3000 people throughout the coronavirus lockdown in the UK, in order to project how the outbreak and the implementing of social distancing has been impacting the daily life of UK citizens. This week, managing partner Greg Ward discusses the findings from the 27th wave of the Covid-19 tracker survey with the Leaders Council, published on October 2 and sourced from data collected on September 25, in which the emotional wellbeing of respondents and their opinions on the government’s handling of the pandemic continued to deteriorate as the recently announced national restrictions to curb rising cases came into effect.
Commencing his weekly analysis of the Covid-19 tracker survey’s findings, Ward said: “It appears to be the case that we are entering a second wave of the virus, so it is to be expected that the data for the first few questions of our survey will return more negative responses. On a technicality, we have found this to be true.”
While the personal health of respondents in a physical sense held up well compared to the previous week - with a one per cent decrease in the number of people experiencing mild Covid symptoms [to eight per cent] and a one per cent increase in the rate of individuals experiencing emotional hardship and no symptoms of any kind [to 39 per cent and 52 per cent, respectively] - the percentage of respondents who said that did not know of any friends or family suffering from emotional or physical issues from the virus hit an all-time low of 37 per cent, down one per cent from the previous week.
Ward explained: “The 37 per cent trough in this statistic is most probably driven by the 31 per cent of individuals who say that they have associates suffering emotionally as a result of the pandemic, which incidentally is an all-time high for that set of data.
“Much of the other data is the worst we have seen, with a joint-high of 11 per cent of people claiming to know someone suffering from severe Covid symptoms, a statistic consistent with the previous week. A joint-high of 16 per cent like last week also say that they know somebody who has been tested for the virus, and 13 per cent continue to say that they know somebody who has passed away because of it. The silver lining here is that the data is only marginally worse than last week, and the changes are small, they just happen to be heading in the wrong direction.”
There were also changes seen in the panel’s feedback on their employment status, with the number of those ‘still employed’ dropping from 45 per cent to 43 per cent and the number of people furloughed going from eight per cent to ten per cent. Two per cent remain redundant while 37 per cent polled in to say that they were ‘not working’.
Ward commented: “The shift in the number of people furloughed is a concern because of the timing. The furlough scheme is being phased out in October to be replaced by the chancellor’s new scheme which will protect jobs but operate very differently, so it will be interesting to see how the data shifts in November, but at this stage for any of those on furlough we must assume that their jobs are vulnerable.”
The change in employment status and the implementing of new restrictions also began to take their toll on the specific emotions being experienced by those responding to the survey, as Ward elaborated.
He said: “The prevalence of people saying that they feel ‘concerned’ by the developments of the pandemic reached an all-time high of 61 per cent last week and it has remained there this time around. Likewise, the number of people say they feel ‘angry’ hit an all-time high of 31 per cent last week and has now been exceeded, with 33 per cent polling in as such this week.
“Some of our panel members are also feeling ‘scared’ about everything, which has remained at 19 per cent consistent with last week, but we can draw comfort from the fact that it is far short of the 30 per cent of people who said that they were afraid when we launched our first poll at the end of March.
“Meanwhile, a high of eight per cent say the situation has made them ‘desperate’, while like last week just 17 per cent - a joint-low - say that they are ‘hopeful’ going forward.”
Leading on from the emotions question, Ward then set about summarising the panel’s views on the role the government is playing in handling the pandemic and it seemed that Westminster’s performance continued to act as a cause for concern and fury.
Ward said: “In our previous survey, we saw an all-time low for the government in this survey, with 49 per cent of the panel scoring their response to the pandemic between one and three out of a possible high-score of ten. Meanwhile, just 12 per cent put their work in the top three of the scale.
“Interestingly, these figures saw a slight improvement this week, although it is nothing to really write home about with 48 per cent continuing to score the government’s response in the bottom three and a mere 13 per cent in the top three. Elsewhere, 39 per cent occupied the middle ground of the four to seven range, so even though it is a marginal improvement, it is hardly a ringing endorsement.”
The following question, which addresses the panel’s views on how quickly the government is moving in easing lockdown restrictions and addressing issues as they arise, yielded an even more fascinating response.
Presenting the responses, Ward explained: “We customarily ask our panel how quickly, or slowly, they think the government is moving to address issues as they arise, summarising the responses in a simple ‘speed’ calculation. A speed of +100 would mean that absolutely all the panel would have answered that the government was moving much too quickly. In contrast, a score of -100 would mean all of our respondents thought they were moving much too slowly.
“Since we launched this measure, we have always been in positive territory - meaning the balance of opinion was that they were moving somewhat too quickly. The highest we ever saw was in week 15 at the beginning of July, when it was +33. From that point it steadily declined, until it was just +1 last week. This week - for the very first time - we have gone into negative territory at -9, meaning the balance of opinion is now that the government is moving a bit too slowly as new restrictions have entered force.
“It will, therefore, be interesting to see how these figures shift over the course of the next few weeks.”
In each weekly Covid-19 tracker survey, FlyResearch also puts guest questions before its panel. The latest of these asked respondents whether they felt that the new measures went far enough in trying to prevent the spread of the virus, while the second asked people what course of action they would take if they were in government. A final guest question then enquired as to whether minimising the spread of the virus or prioritising the wellbeing of the economy was more important to people.
In response to the first question, six per cent of respondents said that the new measures introduced by government went much too far in trying to crack down on Covid-19 while eight per cent said that the measures went slightly too far in doing so. 20 per cent remained neutral, meaning that a substantial majority thought that the measures - which included the 22:00 to 05:00 curfew on the hospitality sector - did not go far enough.
Out of those who felt the measures were insufficient, 45 per cent said that they thought the new restrictions did “not really go far enough”, while 21 per cent agreed that the measures were nowhere near what was required to have a tangible impact on bringing the number of cases down.
Having asked in the next question what the panel members themselves would have done, the most popular measure was, in reality, what the government actually did: closing pubs and other hospitality venues between 22:00 and 05:00 was approved by 57 per cent of the panel, with just under a third [32 per cent] either definitely against the idea [15 per cent] or stating that they probably would not take such a course of action [17 per cent].
Almost as popular a suggestion was placing a ban an all but essential travel, with 53 per cent for the measure and 33 per cent against, and preventing people from meeting other people at home [48 per cent in favour and 33 per cent against]. Closing pubs and hospitality venues, and closing universities both received even responses, with 43 per cent and 40 per cent respectively in favour of closing them, and 41 per cent and 42 per cent against doing so.
On the other hand, the panel was largely against the suggestion of closing all but essential shops, with 50 per cent against and only 34 per cent in favour. Meanwhile, 48 per cent supported closing all but essential workplaces and 37 per cent opposed such action.
The two courses of action which incited the fiercest opposition were firstly a return to full lockdown, with 51 per cent against doing so and 29 per cent in favour, and closing schools [56 per cent against and 27 per cent in favour].
With regards to the final question, weighing up the panel’s views over whether to prioritise the economy or limiting the spread of the virus, a 44 per cent majority said that it was important to try to balance both. 21 per cent then tipped strongly in favour of taking all necessary action to counter the virus and its spread as a first port of call, while 11 per cent stressed that the economy had to be prioritised.
Elsewhere, 17 per cent were slightly more in favour of managing the virus versus six per cent who said they were slightly more biased toward managing the economy as a priority.