Throughout the coronavirus pandemic in the UK, London based online market research agency FlyResearch had been issuing weekly polls to its research panel of over 3000 people, in order to project how the outbreak and the implementing of social distancing and various other restrictions has impacted the daily life of UK citizens.
Up until the 32nd week of the Covid-19 tracker survey [published on November 6 and sourced from data collected on October 30], The Leaders Council published a weekly review of the findings provided by FlyResearch managing partner, Greg Ward. However, from that point on owing to the speed of changes to restrictions, the weekly tracker survey switched to a monthly poll with reviews of the findings coming every four weeks.
Following an impromptu week 39 review addressing the then new Tier 4 restrictions [sourced from data collected on December 21], the latest survey and review take place following week 41 of the Covid-19 tracker poll, consisting of data sourced on January 1, 2021.
The week 39 review uncovered that morale among the panel began to nosedive once again after some respite brought about by positive news on vaccines just a fortnight before, and although positive feelings have marginally picked up among the panel, the mood remains largely glum this time around as deaths linked to Covid-19 are on the rise.
Beginning his customary analysis, Ward said: “Looking at the results from this week, we are very sad to have to convey that a massive 18 per cent of our panel now know somebody who has passed away from the virus. This figure had been stable for many months at around 12-13 per cent, then crept up slowly. Just two weeks ago it was 16 per cent, but now it is at 18 per cent.
“We are also seeing 35 per cent of people who now know somebody who has been tested for the virus at any point, and 17 per cent who know somebody with a severe form of the disease.”
Although the prevalence of the virus is firmly on the up, the figures concerning the employment status of panel members remains largely unmoved.
Commenting on these developments, Ward said that the lack of movement provided cause for cautious optimism.
He said: “The news on the employment side is a bit more encouraging since things do not look any worse than the last few months. We have 47 per cent of the panel still employed, and this is slightly ahead of the 45 per cent we saw in week one way back at the end of March 2020.
“At the moment we are seeing six per cent of people furloughed compared to the seven per cent we had in week one. That said, it is important to remember that almost all our panel members responded to the survey before the latest lockdown was announced and so clearly things might start to change on that front, and we must be cautious.”
Proceeding to address morale among the respondents, Ward continued: “There is some good news regarding the mood of the panel. The overall feeling is similar to what we saw in the last review just before Christmas, but we are seeing that more people are feeling hopeful, with 32 per cent saying they feel this way compared to 21 per cent two weeks ago. We can surmise that this is a result of the promised acceleration of the vaccine roll-out and that it should continue upwards if the government meet their targets.
“We have also seen a small drop in the percentage of people who are ‘angry’ too. At Christmas, this word was chosen by 36 per cent of respondents, the highest we had seen, before dropping to 31 per cent now. Similar is true of people feeling ‘desperate’, with 12 per cent feeling such at Christmas, again an all-time high, before receding to nine per cent.
“To address the negative side of morale, many of our panel members are feeling ‘concerned’ at the moment. This week, that figure stands at 56 per cent, the most prevalent of all the emotions in the survey, albeit it has fallen by two per cent since just before Christmas. The last emotion worth mentioning surrounds loneliness, with 13 per cent of people currently saying they feel ‘lonely’, which happens to be identical to week one. We hope that it continues to remain flat or even drops off, and I would urge everyone to keep their spirits up: we will get through this.”
With morale still low albeit better than a fortnight ago, sentiments about the government’s handling of the virus were also marginally improved without significant uplift, as Ward explained.
He elaborated: “Two weeks ago we commented that 29 per cent of the panel scored the government at the very bottom of our one to ten scale, thinking their approach had been a ‘disaster’. The news today is a slight improvement, with 26 per cent feeling this way. We should point out also that we are seeing only 14 per cent of respondents scoring the government within the eight to ten range, with a mere two per cent marking them as ten out of ten and suggesting they were performing ‘exceptionally well’. We would imagine that these are the people who are recognising that this is an incredibly difficult situation for anybody to handle.
“In terms of our panel’s views on the speed in which the government is addressing issues, two weeks ago we saw 65 per cent say that they felt the government was moving too slowly, with 13 per cent saying the inverse and 22 per cent ‘just about right’. 66 per cent suggested that the government is acting too slowly in the latest survey but considering that many responded to the poll before the announcement of the latest national lockdown, we can suggest that the panel’s call for the government to act has been heeded.
“To support this idea, we saw 40 per cent of the panel say that the whole country should go into a full lockdown as soon as possible, with 20 per cent adding that there should be more restrictions in more areas of the country. Only 19 per cent wanted to see restrictions reduced, and a further nine per cent wanted them lifted entirely. On a side note, two per cent of our panel members have been vaccinated, which is a positive sign that the vaccination programme is beginning to have an effect of some sort.”
In previous polls, FlyResearch has asked panel members to compare the performance of the central UK government in Westminster to other governments around the world, including the devolved administrations. For the first survey of the New Year, Ward felt appropriate to put the question back before the panel again.
Presenting the feedback for this question, Ward continued: “We wanted to ask our respondents again how they felt the central government’s approach measured up against other strategies from around the world, including the devolved nations. Internationally, the star players remain New Zealand and Australia, with the latter having garnered even more approval since when we first started the survey last March.”
He added: “Excluding those who said that they do not have an opinion, 89 per cent now feel that the New Zealand government is doing a better job than ours, while just two per cent feel they are faring worse. These figures stood at 87 per cent and three per cent, respectively, when we last asked this question in week 28. The first time we asked the question in week seven, the figures were 84 per cent in favour versus two per cent against.
“The feedback for Australia now shows that 81 per cent prefer their response to that of our government while three per cent would say Westminster has fared better. In week 28, these figures stood at 70 per cent and five per cent, and when we first measured opinions on Australia in week four, the figures were 51 per cent and six per cent. In the minds of the panel, therefore, Canberra’s strategy has improved considerably.
“The three other countries that have performed well against the UK in this respect are South Korea [with 71 per cent for vs seven per cent against], China [66 per cent versus 14 per cent] and Germany [44 per cent versus nine per cent]. At the opposite end of the scale, it will come as little surprise that the US bring up the rear with just two per cent feeling that Washington has done a better job than Westminster in controlling the virus, and 83 per cent saying that they feel our trans-Atlantic neighbours have fared worse. India [14 per cent versus 58 per cent] and Russia [15 per cent versus 47 per cent] fare little better, and then occupying the middle ground are France [25 per cent better versus 15 per cent worse], Spain [20 per cent versus 22 per cent] and Italy [19 per cent versus 26 per cent].”
While the reckoning for the Southern Hemisphere nations of Australia and New Zealand has improved over time, opinion of the devolved governments has instead begun to deteriorate.
Ward highlighted: “It is worth mentioning that the three devolved governments seem to be getting worse in our panel’s eyes as time wears on. We first asked for views on them back in week ten, and at that point 50 per cent of those who expressed a view thought that the Northern Irish government outperformed Westminster versus six per cent who thought the opposite. Now, the figures read 31 per cent thinking Stormont is faring better and eight per cent the inverse.
“There is a similar trajectory for Scotland, with 60 per cent favouring Holyrood’s response against eight per cent who did not back in week ten. They now read 37 per cent better versus 11 per cent worse. For Wales, we saw 53 per cent feel that their response was better than Westminster’s in week ten versus nine per cent who did not, which has tailed off to 26 per cent versus 17 per cent this week. Interestingly, the worsening of opinion is very consistent across all three nations over time.”
The next review will take place in four weeks’ time, with data collected from January 29 and the poll set to be published in early February.