We’ve been tracking the UK public’s feelings about coronavirus for over three months. At this stage of the pandemic, we present a fourth and final piece of research, and analyse how attitudes and behaviour have changed over time.
How do we feel about coronavirus now?
Since our first survey back in March, there’s been a definite decline in anxiety levels. This indicates that people either feel we’re over the worst of the pandemic or have simply adjusted to the new normal (the red and orange bars show the number of people experiencing higher anxiety levels, and green and blue bars show lower anxiety levels).
Causes of anxiety include the prospect of catching coronavirus, or family members catching it, as well as disruptions in childcare, work and travel. Anxiety about all of these areas has gone down but more than half of Brits still feel worried about their parents or grandparents becoming sick with COVID-19. Nearly half (48.1%) are also worried about the impact of the pandemic on the economy.
One thing people are no longer concerned about is running out of household supplies – 45.9% don’t have strong feelings about it now versus 16.3% in April. However, what we do see is that people who are exposed to lots of news updates about coronavirus are disproportionately concerned about the virus.
Is the government doing a good job?
At the start of the outbreak, the majority of respondents were feeling very positive about the UK government’s response to coronavirus. In fact, it created a kind of halo effect, resulting in people feeling more positive about the Conservative party than they did before. But since then, we’ve seen a significant increase in both cases and deaths in the UK.
We’re now at nearly 41,000 deaths – that’s 1 in 10 of the worldwide deaths and Britain has overtaken Italy, China and Spain in terms of mortality. So how has this changed our view of our nation’s leaders?
Overall, the majority of respondents think the government’s response to the crisis has not sufficed – 49.9% say the government has not done enough, up from 30% at the end of March. This suggests there have been events that have undermined faith in the government – one such event is the Dominic Cummings scandal.
The actions of the senior aide, who travelled 260 miles to County Durham with coronavirus symptoms during lockdown, have had a serious impact. An overwhelming 72% of respondents think this situation will make people trust the government less.
Respondents from the North East, where the scandal was centred, disproportionately think there has been a coverup. They followed the scandal closely and are more likely to have strong feelings about it. Older people and female respondents also feel outraged by the Cummings situation, but Londoners disproportionately think the government has been honest about the situation.
Are we still social distancing?
Most of our respondents self-identify as still maintaining lockdown and social distancing out in public. Only 10.3% say they are going out as usual or more than usual, while 12.5% of people believe there’s no point in following lockdown rules and regulations anymore.
Younger respondents, especially in London, are more likely to express this belief, mostly because vulnerable people who need to stay inside are doing so.
Nearly half of people feel like the lockdown is being lifted too early in the UK; women especially agree with this sentiment, as well as people living in the north. Just over 22% believe the current rules and regulations are helping to prevent a second wave of coronavirus, but an overwhelming 86.7% believe a second wave is “somewhat” or “very” likely.
What does the future look like?
We asked respondents what long term effects the pandemic could have on life in Britain. The primary impact they expect is a high unemployment rate (44.5%). Generally, women are more concerned than men about unemployment rates; the younger respondents are, the less they’re concerned about jobs.
Another hangover of the pandemic – according to 15.4% of people – will be fear and reticence around interacting closely with others. But, on a positive note, a further 15.1% think there will be more funding and support for the NHS in the future – Londoners especially believe this.
Meanwhile, people in the North East are more likely to think there will be a greater sense of community post-COVID-19.
Despite concerns, there’s still a lot to look forward to in the coming months. Once lockdown is over, socialising is the number one thing people want to do. Respondents told us in their own words they most want to see family, including kids or partners they’ve been separated from. And coming in as a close second is seeing friends and attending parties.
Taking a holiday is also high on the list of priorities. Londoners are more likely to be planning a holiday than people in other regions, as are people with kids. But, generally, people think it’s unlikely they’ll be able to go on holiday in the next three months.
For those who are going, what does it look like? It seems likely they’ll be a trend to stay in the UK, especially while travel restrictions are in place. Older people, especially, are more likely to stay in the UK and explore more of their own country.
What does this all mean for brands?
For the most part, consumers are “staying alert” to the risks of coronavirus. Although the downturn of COVID-19 in the UK has officially been declared, people don’t believe it’s over just yet.
Brits have fears for the future, less trust in their leaders and they long for the return of simple pleasures, like hanging out with friends at the pub (or as one respondent said, going for a McDonald’s).
By maintaining the supply of products and services, brands have done a great job of supporting and reassuring consumers so far. Continuing to do so, building trust, and helping people to navigate through still uncertain times remains important for the foreseeable future.