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 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. The previous survey and review came following week 45 of the tracker poll, consisting of data sourced from January 29, 2021.
This latest survey, carried out on week 49 of the poll, covers data sourced from February 26, 2021, and published on March 5, and there was some positive news to come from the latest survey’s guest question on coronavirus vaccines.
Addressing this at the very beginning of his latest analysis of the findings, Ward said: “We have uncovered in the new question about the vaccine that 39.4 per cent of our panel had received a Covid-19 jab at the time of the survey, which is exactly on par with government data and a cause for real encouragement. Especially so, when we compare with one month ago when only 13 per cent of our panel had received one.”
He added: “However, I would suspect that the number of people we have recorded to have refused the vaccine or intend to refuse it - which stands at a meagre three per cent - is an under-read, and quite possibly a large one. Unfortunately, neither out panel nor any other online panel in the UK is particularly good at fully representing ethnic minority communities, and it seems evidentially that these groups are more likely to refuse the vaccine.”
The guest questions in the latest poll sought to uncover some of the concerns around receiving a Covid vaccine to understand why some individuals may see fit to refuse it. The largest concern around those groups of people who refused or plan to refuse the jab was around the long-term effects of the vaccine that are not yet fully understood, with 58 per cent of those refusing a vaccine highlighting this as their primary concern. 19 per cent of people who have received the jab or are willing to take it when asked, also noted this as a concern. Meanwhile, 54 per cent of vaccine refusers and 12 per cent of those who have had the jab or would be willing to take it reported that they were concerned that the vaccine has been developed too quickly.
Discussing these concerns, Ward noted: “Both of these concerns are of course valid ones, but by way of trying to alleviate these worries, it is worth pointing out that the media are largely to blame for creating this impression. In the early days of the pandemic, the media kept informing us that it normally takes a decade to develop a vaccine. While that may be true to an extent, it is not entirely the truth. In fact, a significant number of those ten years is spent writing up proposals to get funding, conducting presentations, and waiting for feedback and approval. Given the seriousness of this pandemic, a lot of these layers of bureaucracy have been removed and all of the time taken to normally develop a vaccine never really had any bearing on their safety. The truth is that we have always had the ability to develop vaccines quicker, but we have not seen the willingness to fund them and push them through so swiftly until now.”
The survey also uncovered concerns among the panel about what exactly goes into the vaccines, with 46 per cent of vaccine refusers and six per cent of the remainder having noted this as a worry.
Ward continued: “In this instance, there is a lot of content on social media about what goes into these vaccines as well as the potential impact on fertility, with 21 per cent of refusers and three per cent of the rest also worried about this. Furthermore, 23 per cent of vaccine refusers and two per cent of the rest of our panel suggested they were worried about the jabs being a covert attempt to control the population.
“We also asked our respondents to cover other concerns that they may have which we had not listed, and a common issue we found was among people who had some specific health concerns. For example, those who perhaps had immune systems that had been compromised or were prone to extreme allergic reactions were worried about taking the vaccine, and we would say to those people in this situation that they should consult a medical professional with detailed knowledge of the specifics. There does also seem to be some research being conducted in this area at the moment, so hopefully there will be some positive answers to emerge from that soon.”
The survey also uncovered a small group of people who noted among their concerns that they thought the dangers of coronavirus were overstated and/or that there was already a cure.
Homing in on this, Ward said: “We cannot be sure where this information is coming from, for it certainly is not emerging from mainstream media. It also appears to be at odds with the findings from this survey, because 20 per cent of people unfortunately know somebody who has passed away and around 12 per cent of our respondents have, or at least think they have, suffered symptoms themselves.”
Elsewhere, while little changed in terms of respondents’ feedback on their own personal health and the health of their friends and family, the statistics around employment status suffered a minor setback. Those reporting that they remained in employment dropped from 47 per cent four weeks earlier to 44 per cent in the latest poll, with the rate of those on furlough having increased from seven per cent to nine per cent in the same timeframe.
Ward commented: “Obviously an increase of people going on furlough is not ideal, but it is better than the alternative of no employment at all. It also marks a return to figures we saw back in week 32 in early November last year but remains far better than the figures from last May when employment fell to just 40 per cent and 13 per cent of the panel were furloughed.
“The employment figures also likely explain the latest information on the current emotions our panel members are experiencing. Of course, we are still not out of the woods yet, but it seems people are getting much more ‘hopeful’ with the prevalence of this emotion now at 56 per cent, an all-time high which is way up from the 38 per cent recorded last month and the 32 per cent seen the month before.”
More reassuringly, the latest survey saw the number of individuals feeling ‘scared’ drop from 15 per cent to nine per cent, while the prevalence of ‘concerned’ people has dropped to an all-time low of 31 per cent, compared to a huge 65 per cent back at the end of March 2020 when the survey first began.
Elsewhere in the emotions question, the prevalence of ‘lonely’ and ‘angry’ dropped to 19 per cent and 14 per cent, respectively, having stood at 27 per cent and 17 per cent one month earlier.
In the latest survey, there remained a correlation between people’s emotions and their thoughts about how the UK government is performing in handling the Covid-19 pandemic. This month, 22 per cent of people scored the government’s performance eight out of ten or above, with just 31 per cent grading their performance in the one to three range [meaning tantamount to a disaster]. The feedback constituted the most favourable views on the government’s performance seen since week nine, back in late May.
The numbers still, however, fall short of people’s views on the government’s handling of the crisis back in week one of the Covid-19 tracker poll, where 40 per cent scored them an eight out of ten or more, and just 12 per cent ranked them in the bottom three.
Ward said: “In effect, what we are seeing is a ‘U shaped’ performance grading as the pandemic wears on, but we are not seeing the same goodwill that we saw at the very beginning of restrictions coming into place.”
A similar trend is also becoming apparent in people’s views on how quickly or slowly the government is moving to address issues as and when they arise. The data is summarised by creating a speed score of -100 to +100, with the minus extreme representing the view that the government is moving much too slowly, and the positive extreme signifying that ministers are moving too quickly.
Ward explained: “In the context of our speed score, you could say that zero is the perfect score that could be awarded, and this month we have seen the speed score hit +2, which is the closest to zero we have seen so far. Specifically, 20 per cent of the panel think the government is moving too slowly while 26 per cent think the opposite. Most people think that its speed of action at present is about right.”
The other major guest question in the latest survey was presented in two parts and focused on the idea of vaccine passports and how other political leaders may have performed if they were leading the country in lieu of prime minister, Boris Johnson.
Addressing the feedback on vaccine passports first, around two thirds of the panel [67 per cent] felt that they would be a good idea to introduce them for international travel overall, with 39 per cent thinking it was definitely a good option. On the other hand, 11 per cent of respondents felt it was a bad idea for international travel, with eight per cent feeling it was definitely a bad option to consider.
Concerning the idea of using vaccine passports domestically as a condition for entry to hospitality and other venues such as pubs, restaurants, cinemas, and stadia, 51 per cent overall felt they were a good idea [28 per cent definitely so] versus 22 per cent who thought it was not a good idea [with 13 per cent feeling it definitely would not be a viable option].
Ward concluded: “It seems from these figures that the panel is quite strongly in favour of using vaccine passports, both domestically and for travel abroad.”
With regards to the alternative leaders question, the feedback found itself at odds with the views recorded on the government’s overall performance.
Highlighting the figures, Ward said: “If we look at the earlier scores we recorded on the government’s overall performance, we can look at 22 per cent of people scoring the government an eight out of ten or more, compared to 31 per cent in the one to three range, and then simplify that down to a score of -9 by subtracting the negative views from the positive ones. If we do the same with the figures taken on Boris Johnson’s performance as an individual, his percentage score came back as -19, with 42 per cent having given him a bottom three score and just 23 per cent a top three one. What we can say, therefore, is that the prime minister is underperforming against his government as a whole.
“Looking at the other leaders and potential or past leaders, only one option on the survey outscored the current government and that was Margaret Thatcher with an overall score of -5 [25 per cent in the top three versus 30 per cent in the top three]. By contrast, most of the others scored considerably worse with Tony Blair returning a -31 score [41 per cent bottom three versus ten per cent top three], Theresa May -33 [41 per cent bottom three versus eight per cent top three] and Sir Keir Starmer -26 [35 per cent bottom three versus nine per cent top three]. By far the worse performer, however, was Jeremy Corbyn, with an overall score of -63, after 68 per cent of people felt he would warrant a bottom three score compared to just five per cent who felt he would have done well enough for an eight out of ten or above. Either way, none of the politicians returned a particularly good score, suggesting maybe more away needed to go toward the science.”