In Depth

Coronavirus polls: how Brits are feeling about the lockdown

Surveys reveal shifting public opinion on everything from Boris Johnson to the future of society

The ongoing coronavirus outbreak has changed both the lives and outlooks of millions of people worldwide.

In a bid to find out Britons are reacting to the global pandemic, polling firms and academics have been investigating how the country’s collective feelings and opinions appear to be shifting in relation to everything from politics to mental health.

Here is what that research has revealed.

Boris Johnson more popular than ever

As with many world leaders, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s leadership has been viewed more favourably by voters since the outbreak began.

Sky News reports that, despite facing criticism over his initial “herd immunity” strategy, the PM’s satisfaction ratings increased by five points between the start of February and mid-March, from 47% to 52%, according to Ipsos Mori figures.

The latest ratings present a 16-point jump since early December (36%), just before the general election.

Mental health is hurting

Unsurprisingly, the country’s mental health appears to be suffering as a result of the pandemic. A YouGov poll of 2,100 adults in the UK - carried out before the full nationwide lockdown was imposed - found that more than one in five had felt panicked about the outbreak, and three in ten had felt afraid. More than 60% of respondents said they had felt anxious or worried.

Even though the poll was carried out before people were ordered to stay at home, “there were clear indications that the pandemic was beginning to have a significant impact on the nation’s mental health”, Dr Antonis Kousoulis, director of research at the Mental Health Foundation, which commissioned the poll, told The Guardian.  

Kousoulis says the charity plans to conduct monthly polls to monitor the situation, but predicts that “the mental health impact of the pandemic is going to last longer than the physical health impact”.

A separate survey by the University of Sheffield and Ulster University has also pointed to a significant increase in mental health issues among Britons during the continuing crisis. The researchers found that on 22 March - the day before the UK lockdown began - 16% of 2,000 study participants reported significant depression and 17% reported significant anxiety. Two days later, those figures had risen to 38% and 36% respectively.

Home working feels laborious

An online survey of more than 1,050 British adults conducted by Ipsos Mori between 20 and 23 March found that half (49%) of those in employment were finding it more difficult to work than they had before the outbreak. A further 46% said their ability to work had remained the same. 

The polling firm reports that younger workers were “more likely to be struggling to work in the current situation”, with “three in five (58%) of those currently in work aged between 18-34 saying they are finding it harder since the coronavirus outbreak, compared to nearer two in five 35-54-year-olds (45%)”.

Economic pessimism vs. societal optimism

The results of a YouGov survey published on Monday suggest that unprecedented measures by the Treasury to shore up UK businesses and protect jobs are doing “little to protect consumer confidence”, with almost three-quarters of respondents predicting that Britain’s economy will be in depression (19%) or recession (52%) within a year.

On a more positive note, separate and ongoing research from the data analytics company indicates that Britons are starting to feel more optimistic about society as a whole. The proportion of people feeling worse about the state of British society has fallen from 51% a week ago to 28%, while the number who feel more optimistic about it has risen from 9% to 24%.

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Taking things seriously

Despite this slow shift toward optimism, many people feel that too many of their fellow citizens aren’t taking the crisis seriously enough.

According to the latest results in YouGov’s ongoing research, only 37% of respondents think that the British public is dealing with the pandemic with the warranted level of seriousness, while 56% believe their peers are still failing to respond appropriately. 

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