News | Published June 08 2020

FlyResearch poll: week ten 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 findings from the tenth week of polling, otherwise known as the week commencing June 1, which saw the deterioration of support for the government escalate further, amid a special weekly question about the panel’s thoughts on the Dominic Cummings saga.

There have been some notably consistent trends in the survey as the week’s have rolled by, certainly so surrounding the initial points of interest surrounding health and wellbeing, and as usual, Ward began his presentation of the numbers with this topic.

Ward said: “Regarding health and wellbeing, there are no sensational shifts to report this week, with changes very much in line with previous polls.

“Specifically, we are seeing a slight downward shift in the number of respondents informing us that there health has not at all been impacted by the crisis, having fallen by one per cent compared to last week [the ninth week of polling, commencing May 25] to 52 per cent. There is a trend of marginal decline with each week, but fortunately it is a slow moving one.”

The same trend could also be seen in another key wellbeing statistic, with the number of individuals polling in to say they knew somebody who has passed away from Covid-19 rising by one per cent, to 13 per cent overall. Yet, figures from elsewhere in the poll did provide some room for encouragement.

Ward said: “Despite some fairly negative expectations in the press, there does not currently seem to be much shift in the employment data for this week. 40 per cent of the panel remain employed, there has been a one per cent drop in the number of people not working which is now at 37 per cent, and those redundant remained at one per cent, with the number of people furloughed fixed again at 13 per cent. Hopefully, this will continue.”

However, with every positive comes a negative, and there was some bad news to be had concerning the emotional wellbeing of panel members.

Elaborating on this matter, Ward said: “It is probably unsurprising that in the wake of the Dominic Cummings saga, the emotion ‘angry’ has suddenly spiked. It had been steadily gaining momentum over time, with just 11 per cent describing themselves as angry back in our opening week of polling, when we collected results on March 27 and released them the following week.

“It was from the sixth week of polling that we really saw anger begin to become more prevalent among panellists. By last week it had reached 17 per cent and has now jumped to 22 per cent.”

With that change came more negative reading for the government, in terms of how panel members rated its response to the Covid-19 pandemic out of a score of ten, with one being tantamount to a disaster, and ten being very positive.

Presenting the panel’s response, Ward said: “Way back in week one toward the end of March, 40 per cent were scoring the government’s response in the eight to ten range, and just 12 per cent in the one to three range. The latter figure has now risen to 39 per cent, with a substantial 19 per cent scoring in at one.

“In contrast, 18 per cent are now scoring the government in the eight to ten range, meaning more are polling in at one out of ten that the whole top three together. Within ten weeks, that is quite a turnaround.”

The panel’s approval ratings of the UK government’s response brought Ward’s analysis neatly onto the next question in the poll, a unique one for week ten: the Westminster government’s response compared to that of the devolved governments of the UK.

Once again, the figures do not make for easy reading for prime minister Boris Johnson and his top team. In a nutshell, the FlyResearch panel felt that all three of the other national governments were doing a better job of handling the pandemic than Westminster.

Ward said: “It should be noted in this statistic that it is not just a matter of our Scottish panel members thinking Scotland are doing a better job of handling the pandemic. We are seeing this pattern across our panel, which is comprised of members of all four constituent countries.

“For example, 77 per cent of Scots on our panel think that Holyrood is handling the pandemic better than Westminster, with just seven per cent thinking the inverse. For the panel as a whole, 60 per cent polled in approval of Nicola Sturgeon’s approach over Boris Johnson’s, and eight per cent the opposite way.

“Likewise, in Wales, 68 per cent of our Welsh respondents polled in to say that Mark Drakeford’s government had mustered a better response than Westminster, with 14 per cent saying not. The comparative figures across the whole panel were 53 per cent in favour of the Welsh response and 14 per cent the national one. For Northern Ireland, the local figures stand at 64 per cent to 11 per cent, with the wider panel figures polling in as saying that 50 per cent think that Arlene Foster and Stormont's response was more effective, and six per cent the inverse.”

Fascinatingly, when measured up against the Covid-19 responses from other countries on the poll, the response of all three devolved governments was ranked more highly than China’s response to the crisis [48 per cent: 27 per cent], and just below that of the government of Australia [76 per cent: three per cent].

Yet, it was only fitting that one of the poll’s unique topics for the week centred around the Dominic Cummings controversy and whether panel members felt he directly contravened lockdown rules.

Ward highlighted: “A mere three percent of respondents thought that Cummings had done nothing wrong and that he should be left alone. That number was lower then we had predicted, but can be measured up against the 23 per cent who thought he had broken the rules, but that we should simply move on based on the idea that many other individuals had probably broken lockdown regulations themselves. We can be generous here and therefore say that just over a quarter of the panel was not too critical.”

Meanwhile, 12 per cent of the panel said that they would have been satisfied had Cummings issued an apology, while 13 per cent felt he should be held to account since he helped create the rules that he himself had broken. Eight per cent of the panel polled in to say that Cummings had broken the rules outright and must leave his role or be sacked.

Ward continued: “Elsewhere, a huge 41 per cent of panellists not only felt that Cummings should resign or be sacked but said that his explanation for breaking lockdown rules left them feeling insulted. We feel that there is real correlation here with the continued decline in support for the government, and indeed a rapid rise in the number of people feeling anger in their general emotions.

“In fact, when measuring the responses to the Cummings controversy against the government approval scale, out of those insulted by Cummings’ explanations around 68 per cent scored the government between one and three for their response to the crisis, with four per cent scoring them in the top three.”

Ward then took the time to address another possible explanation for the figures, that the views on Dominic Cummings constitute a reflection on how people voted in the 2016 referendum on EU membership.

Ward said: “1200 of the panel members taking part in our weekly Covid-19 surveys took part in a survey on the 2016 referendum conducted four years ago. We can to an extent, therefore, directly compare how the 1200 voted against existing views on Dominic Cummings, and there is certainly some correlation.

“15 per cent of ‘Remain’ voters think that Cummings’ bent the rules but we should move on from the controversy, compared to 33 per cent of ‘Leave’ voters saying the same, which indicates a strong bias. However, the most startling figure from the Cummings question was that 41 per cent were offended by his explanations. There is a Brexit bias here too, with 54 per cent ‘Remainers’ saying that they were insulted, with 31 per cent of ‘Leavers’ also polling in the same way, almost on a par with those who said that we should move on.”

This revelation does make for interesting reading for the prime minister, in that he may risk alienating some of his strongest supporters, in Ward’s view.

The closing question of the week ten poll quizzed panel members on whether they intended to behave any differently in terms of adhering to lockdown rules in the wake of the Dominic Cummings revelations. A two-thirds majority of the panel said that they would not, while nine per cent said that they ‘definitely would’ and a further nine per cent said that they would contravene rules in the event that Cummings was not dispensed with. Analysing the figures, Ward hinted that the quantity of ‘rule-breakers’ was nonetheless higher than it should be.

“Combining those who said they would look to break the rules with those who would do so if Cummings were not to be removed from his position, which seems fairly likely, we have just under a fifth of our 3,000 strong panel saying that they would contravene lockdown regulations.

“That, I feel, is more than we should be risking at this stage.”

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Authored by

Alexander Bridge-Wilkinson
Junior Editor
June 08 2020

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