News | Published May 25 2020

Fly Research poll: week eight update

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. In conversation with The Parliamentary Review, managing partner Greg Ward discusses the poll findings for the eighth week of polling [commencing May 18], and while the well-being of the panellists and their associates appears to have stabilised, support for the UK government is still in decline.

Presenting the latest figures on well-being to begin with, managing partner Greg Ward said: “As far as the personal health of our panellists is concerned, the results this week are identical to week seven of polling [the week commencing May 11], so that’s semi-good news at least. Likewise, results of the question concerning the welfare of respondents’ friends and family are nearly identical to last week.

“Interestingly, there’s been a very slight increase in percentage of those who say they know somebody who has been tested for Covid-19. This figure stood at four per cent way back in the first week of polling [commencing March 30] and had risen to ten per cent as of the previous week. This week, it has marginally risen to 11 per cent.

“Critically, however, there have been no changes between last week and this week in the percentage of respondents claiming to know somebody who had passed away as a result of coronavirus. This figure remains at 11 per cent.”

Ward added without going into detail that the statistics surrounding employment had remained largely the same as in the previous week, but there had been some shift in the emotions of those polled concerning their outlook on the future.

Elaborating on these changes, Ward explained: “We have seen something of a reversal in people’s emotions.

“The number of people saying that they felt ‘concerned’ about the future had been steadily falling from 65 per cent over the first week of polling, down to just 46 per cent in week seven. This week, the number has slightly risen to 48 per cent.

“Meanwhile, respondents informing us that they felt ‘hopeful’ of the future has slightly fallen from 38 per cent to 35 per cent from last week to now.”

Offering his take on why emotions had marginally shifted, Ward suggested that entering the new phase of the UK lockdown was chiefly responsible, a fact which has likely has a bearing on the panel’s response concerning how well the government is perceived in its handling of the pandemic.

Addressing the “government approval ratings” within the poll, Ward said: “For the first time ever since we started our Covid-19 polling, the tide has turned and we now have more of our respondents scoring the government between one and three out of ten, than in the eight to ten range - with one being tantamount to ‘disaster’ and ten being positive.

“Back in the first week of polling, 40 per cent of the panel scored the government within the eight to ten range for its response, with just 12 per cent judging their approach worthy of a one to three score. Over the weeks that followed, there was gradual erosion in the levels of support for the government and an increase in its doubters. In week seven, we saw 29 per cent scoring the government positively and 25 per cent in the negative. Now, we have 30 per cent scoring the government in the bottom three of the scale, with 23 per cent giving them a top three score.

“Within that, we now have 12 per cent scoring the government a score of one, which has grown after having been four per cent in the first week of polling. In contrast, only four per cent scored the government a score of ten, judging their response to the crisis as ‘exceptionally positive’. It suffices to say, therefore, that opinion has shifted.”

Shifting focus to FlyResearch’s customary one-off questions introduced in each weekly poll, Ward suggested that the answers given here could provide some insight as to why opinion of the government’s approach has gradually shifted.

Ward outlined: “In the first of the new questions introduced in this week’s poll, we asked our panel about their feelings concerning the government’s announcements on easing lockdown restrictions. 42 per cent of respondents suggested that they felt ‘disappointed’ by the government’s move, on the grounds that the loosening of the lockdown was ‘too much, too quickly’.”

He added: “Meanwhile, 42 per cent of the panel told us they were ‘worried’ by the announcement, with 16 per cent going as far to say they were ‘frightened’ by the prospect of easing lockdown. In contrast, just eight per cent polled in as feeling ‘disappointed’ by the announcement, since they were hoping for more restrictions to be eased.”

The poll therefore suggests that public opinion leans toward the fact that the government is moving too swiftly in lifting the lockdown. Furthermore, there is something to be said about the perceived clarity of the government’s announcement: 28 per cent of the FlyResearch poll responded to say that the lifting of the lockdown measures had left them feeling ‘totally confused’.

The week eight poll also took more of an in-depth look at the panel’s thoughts on the South Korean response to the crisis, after over 80 per cent of respondents in the seventh week of polling felt that the South Korean government had handled the crisis better than their British counterparts.

Ward said: “In the polls for this week, 83 per cent of panellists thought that the South Korean government had done a better job than Boris Johnson and his associates in addressing the pandemic, compared to five per cent who thought the opposite.

“Notably, South Korea did not need to impose a lockdown on its population, owed to a very swift response and an extensive use of technology. However, we thought we should put to our panel how highly they would approve of some of the measures that were used in South Korea, if they were to be implemented in the UK.

“This threw up some fascinating results. A huge number of our panel believe that in the UK, we should track and trace the contacts of any new cases and subject all of them to testing, with 69 per cent in agreement that we should take those steps, and a further 22 per cent saying the UK government should consider such action. The most striking thing, however, was when we asked the panel about whether they would approve of tracking people’s movements via mobile phone data sourced from their providers and tracking their credit and debit card transactions as part of the contact tracing strategy. 37 per cent said that they would approve of extensive mobile phone tracking, and 23 per cent would approve tracking via debit and credit card transactions. Meanwhile, an additional 28 per cent and 23 per cent respectively, said that the government should at least consider it”.

As a result, the figures show that less than half of respondents would be against the UK government using the same tactics deployed in South Korea as part of the Covid-19 track and trace strategy, despite some of these steps potentially being construed as intrusive with regard to privacy.

Ward said: “The numbers here do leave plenty of food for thought for the government as it finalises its track and trace strategy, for certain. These slightly more intrusive measures are all receiving greater consideration that perhaps would have been expected prior to the pandemic.”

To give further substance to these findings, FlyResearch included another question in the week eight poll, quizzing respondents over whether they agreed with certain statements about health measured against privacy.

The statistics suggested that 69 per cent of the panel agreed that contact tracing should be kept private until an individual contracts the virus, while 24 per cent were neutral on the issue, with seven per cent in disagreement.

Elsewhere, 58 per cent of respondents agreed that health was more important than privacy, with 13 per cent in disagreement.

53 per cent of respondents thought it would be a better approach to keep tracking data confined to individual mobile phones, until somebody is flagged up as having contracted the virus. 13 per cent thought otherwise.

Summarising the numbers, Ward said: “We are seeing a majority of people mistrusting Apple, Google and the government with this data. There is, however, a degree of tension in the data because it is clear that the normal desire for privacy is, to a reasonable extent, offset by concerns over public health. In other words, it appears we are all prepared to consider things that previously would have been rejected outright when it comes to track and trace.

“We must conclude, therefore, that there appears to be a high level of acceptance of the fact that circumstances right now are exceptionally unusual and that normal privacy concerns should be put to one side. Yet, there is still an element of public sentiment which errs toward not allowing those handling the data to take advantage of having access.

“The UK government could probably do a lot more than it perhaps thinks within this area, but they would need to be very transparent over the course of action they were taking and justify it. Considering the already eroding levels of support for the government’s handling of the crisis, it must contextualise its actions with track and trace or only risk more people becoming disillusioned with their methods of handling this crisis.”

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Authored by

Alexander Bridge-Wilkinson
Junior Editor
May 25 2020

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