Welcome to the latest findings from our weekly Covid-19 Survey. Last thing first (!) - we explained at the end of the survey that we were seeing slightly fewer of you responding each week. This is perfectly understandable as this is not a survey for which we earn any money. So, we’re afraid, there’s no money available to pay you an incentive as there is for all our normal surveys. The point of this survey is to try to keep in touch and to let you know how your fellow panel members are feeling. That does seem to be appreciated by many of you - as we get regular emails saying exactly that. Plus there are still around 3,000 of you doing the survey.
Nevertheless, after eight weeks, we thought we should ask whether you want to continue? Slightly over two thirds of you (68% to be precise) said they wanted to continue as before. Of the remainder around a quarter (23%) wanted to continue but reduce the frequency to once a fortnight. Then 4% wanted the surveys to run Monthly and the final 4% wanted to stop altogether.
So, that seems to be a pretty strong - but not universal - vote to continue as we are. On balance that’s what we think we should do. But we should also stress that this survey is purely optional. Please don’t feel that you have to do these surveys - it won’t impact on your position on the panel in any way. Also we are not linking the data from one survey to another - so it is absolutely fine for some of you to do all the surveys, but for others to do one in two, or one in four etc.
Ok - so that said - let’s turn our attention to the basic questions we ask each week. As far as your personal heath is concerned the results this week are identical to last - so that’s semi-good news at least. Also the results for the question about your friends and family are nearly identical. There’s been a very slight increase in the number of you who know somebody who has been tested. This was 4% way back in week one (can you remember that far back?!) and had gone up to 10% by last week. This week it’s up, just a small amount, to 11%. Critically (and hopefully not for the last time?) there’s been no change in the percentage of you who know somebody who died. That figure remains at 11%.
Also there’s no real change in the employment results. But there are some changes around how you are all feeling. Here, we’re afraid, we’ve seen a bit of a reversal - with “Concerned”, which had been dropping steadily from 65% in week one down to just 46% last week, going slightly back up to 48% this week. And “Hopeful” (which had gone from 28% to 38%) dropping back down to 35%.
It seems likely that was as a result of the new phase to the lockdown. Although this was announced last week, the exact timings of this survey meant that most of you had already completed it before the announcement - so this weeks survey is the first opportunity most of you had to tell us what it might have changed for you. This is even more marked in the question about how well you think the UK Government has been handling the crisis. For the first time ever the tide has turned and we now have more of you scoring the Government in the bottom three of the scale (think they’re doing badly) than in the top three (think they’re doing well). All the way back in week one most of you thought they were doing a good job (40% top 3 vs just 12% bottom 3) that had gradually eroded over time but last week we still saw 29% top 3 as slightly higher than the 25% who scored them bottom 3. But that has now flipped - in fact slightly more than that. For the first time we have 30% scoring the Government in the bottom 3 of the 10 scale and only 23% in the top 3. Within that we now have 12% (vs 4% in week 1) scoring them “1 - a disaster” and only 4% (vs 8% in week 1) scoring them as “10 - exceptionally well”. So your opinions have certainly changed. Partly your views have drifted away from the Government doing well to badly - but then a big jump this week on top of that.
We think we can understand this shift if we look at the first of the one-off questions this week. We asked you how you felt about the Government announcements. Now we did have 4% of you who were “Excited” and 8% who were “Disappointed” as they’d “Hoped for more”. But compare that to the 42% who were “Disappointed” as it was “too much too quickly” and the 46% who are “Worried”. Fortunately only 16% of you were “Frightened” - but it’s clear that the Government is moving too quickly, and maybe even a bit unpredictably (?), for most of you? In fact 28% answered that you were “Totally Confused!”.
We then went on to talk about South Korea and how their Government has been handling the situation. Some of you may even have been aware that their population were extremely critical of how they had handled a previous coronavirus outbreak - so they appear to have reacted quickly and decisively to this one. In fact you think their performance is only slightly worse than New Zealand - last weeks winner in our International comparison. Last week we saw 84% of you thought the New Zealand Government had done a better job than ours and only 2% a worse one - this week we saw figures of 83% and 5% for South Korea - so not quite as well - but very very close.
Now the reason for looking at South Korea differently was that their quick response - and their use of technology - has meant that they didn’t need to impose a lock-down on their population. The common perception is that they achieved this by doing things which we would never allow our Government to even consider. But we felt that we should ask you what you thought? These are, after all, unprecedented times.
So, of the various (possibly intrusive) things the South Korean Government has done - which would you agree with and which would you not? Well a huge number of you thought we should be tracking and tracing contacts of anybody who was newly infected and that they then should all be tested (69% of you thought that was something we should do and another 22% that we should consider it). The idea of sending out detailed alerts on who had been infected and where they had recently been - that also got broad approval (45% plus 32% thinking it should be considered). But even tracking all mobiles via the phone Companies, tracking all credit card transactions, and then using that data for “track and trace” when new infections occurred - all of those were more likely to be approved than we had expected - 37% for phones, 23% for cards and 38% for using the data - were in favour of doing these. Plus an extra 28%, 23% and 30% who would, at least, consider it. With the exception of credit card tracking - fewer than half of you were definitely against all of these ideas. So there’s probably something there for our Government to consider? These measures all seemed to be getting more consideration than we would have expected before the coronavirus crisis.
Finally, we showed you various statements about privacy vs health and asked you whether you agreed or disagreed with them. A huge 69% agreed that contact tracing should be kept private until somebody is actually infected and 24% were neutral meaning only 7% disagreed. We also saw nearly as many (58%) agreeing that keeping us healthy was more important than privacy and only 13% disagreeing. Then we saw 53% agreeing that it would be better to keep any tracking data on your phone until/if it’s needed - with 13% disagreeing. We also saw a majority of you not trusting Apple, or Google, or the Government with this data. There is, though, a bit of “tension” in the data because it’s clear that the normal desire for privacy is, to a reasonable extent, being offset by concerns about the nation’s health. In other words we are all prepared to consider things that would previously have been rejected out of hand.
So, we’d probably have to conclude that there appears to be a high level of acceptance that the circumstances are very unusual and that normal privacy concerns may (possibly even should) be put to one side. But possibly with an element of “but don’t push us” (don’t take advantage). It probably means the UK Government could do more than they think in this area - BUT that they would need to be crystal clear about what they were doing and why. It has to be contextualised, after all, with that substantial erosion in our views as to how good a job the Government is doing.

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