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 wave 31 of the Covid-19 tracker survey with the Leaders Council, published on October 30 and sourced from data collected on October 23, a date which marked seven whole months since the UK lockdown was initially called.
While respondents could be forgiven for feeling frustrated and seeing a decline in their mental wellbeing as a result of the ongoing restrictions, a fortunate finding from the latest survey was that the health and wellbeing of participants had not grown significantly worse compared to the previous week’s poll.
Ward commented: “We are seeing that just over half of the 2,400 people in our panel that responded to this week’s survey, 51 per cent to be precise, are reporting no personal health issues at all and very few are reporting physical complaints. We see only seven per cent with mild symptoms and it has only ever hung between that figure and nine per cent since the poll began. Elsewhere, one per cent are reporting that they are suffering from more severe symptoms, and we hope for a speedy recovery for those 24 people.”
Unfortunately, it seems that the impact of longstanding restrictions is continuing to take a toll on the health and wellbeing of the friends and family of those taking part in the survey, consistent with ongoing deteriorations seen in recent weeks.
Ward said: “The sad thing to take from these outcomes is that we are back up to 14 per cent of people reporting that they know somebody who has died with the virus. That is higher than the 11 to 13 per cent we saw over the summer, but it is not too much higher at least and is not growing substantially. Nevertheless, that small percentage represents a huge amount of pain and upset. A further 11 per cent have friends or family suffering from severe symptoms of Covid, consistent with the previous five weeks.
“Emotional health is faring marginally better, though, with 31 per cent now reporting that their friends and family are suffering in this sense, a one per cent decline on last week. A further two per cent of people now say they know somebody to have taken a Covid test, a figure which now stands at 22 per cent overall.”
Concerning the employment status of survey respondents, the news was more positive. The survey indicated that the quantity of those “still employed” remained at 44 per cent consistent with the previous week. It has largely remained the same throughout the seven months that the poll has run, having read 45 per cent in week one. This statistic is made all the more remarkable considering that the number of furloughed, which now stands at nine per cent, once peaked at 13 per cent.
However, for some of the positives that could be taken, the months of living under Covid restrictions continues to take a toll on the specific emotions that respondents are experiencing.
Ward elaborated: “By and large, our panel members are not feeling great about the situation even with the positives in mind. The two most prevalent emotions we saw in this week’s survery were ‘concerned’, which stood at 58 per cent, and ‘angry’ at 32 per cent. Fortunately, we are not seeing too many people feeling ‘scared’, which stood at 19 per cent this week but has come down drastically from 30 per cent in our very first survey.
“On the flipside, however, the prominence of ‘desperate’ people is growing. Having stood at around four to five per cent over the summer, it now stands at nine per cent which is subdued but still higher. The worse aspect is the low figures for the more positive feelings. The quantity of people feeling ‘hopeful’ stands at 18 per cent this week having regularly been hitting 30 per cent over the summer months as we started to see lockdown restrictions lifted.”
The developments seen in the respondents’ emotions have also correlated with waning support for the government’s handling of the pandemic. In its one ten scale [in which respondents rate the government’s handling of affairs], FlyResearch reported that 50 per cent are now scoring the government’s response poorly with a one to three score. This is not a huge difference compared to the 49 per cent seen in the previous week, but constitutes a significant milestone.
Meanwhile, a mere 11 per cent are now scoring the government’s strategy in the top three of the scale, and a major explanation for that in Ward’s view can be taken from this week’s responses to the “speed survey”, which calculates the panel’s overall view on how quickly or slowly the government is acting to address issues as and when they arise.
Ward noted: “A large part of the disapproval of government is down to more people, on balance, believing that the government is moving too slowly. Compared to a score of -29 on our -100 to +100 survey that we saw last week, this time around we are at -30.
“Overall, our panel has gone from thinking the government was moving too quickly - with a score of +33 seen at the start of July - to now believing developments are too slowly now. The zero threshold was crossed in the middle of September, so we can deduce that it is the government’s reaction to this second wave we seem to be in that is concerning most people.”
In the latest round of guest questions which concluded the 31st wave of the survey, Ward and his colleagues asked the panel who they thought should be responsible for providing for pupils who might struggle without school meals, and whether or not they preferred the idea of a full national “circuit breaker” lockdown as opposed to the current regional measures.
For the first of the questions, some resounding figures were seen: 67 per cent of the panel said that the government should be responsible for providing for such pupils, while 50 per cent believed that responsibility lay with the parents. Other possible answers returned much lower responses, with 24 per cent saying that charities should pick up the pieces in this regard, 18 per cent food businesses and 13 per cent saying that wealthy celebrities should be contributing, inspired perhaps by Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford who has been spearheading a campaign to alleviate child food poverty.
With regards to the panel’s thoughts over another lockdown, 17 per cent were not sure whether they preferred the existing three-tier system or the idea of another full circuit breaker. 50 per cent of respondents aired more toward the idea of wanting a full lockdown, having split equally between “definitely want a lockdown” and “probably”.
Elsewhere, 19 per cent of the panel reported that they “probably” prefer the existing system of regionalised restrictions, while 14 per cent listed it as their definite preference.
Analysing these figures, Ward concluded: “All in all, it seems as if the overall desire to want the government to move faster is linked to a more aggressive stance on what form of lockdown is needed to bring the R rate of the virus down.”