Welcome to the findings for week forty-nine of our Covid tracker survey. We’ll ignore the first couple of questions from the survey this month - because very little has changed in terms of how you are reporting your own health and those around you. When we get to question three, on employment, the news isn’t great but could be worse. The percentage of you still in employment has dropped this month (from 47% to 44%) with the increase largely being amongst those on furlough from 7% last month to 9% this. Now obviously furlough isn’t great but it is better than the alternative. Also it marks a return to where we were in week 33 (early November) and is still much better than we were back in May when employment had dropped to just 40% and furlough was up to 13% of you.

So, that probably explains the information on your current emotions? Of course we are still not out of this horrible state quite yet, but we are all getting much more hopeful. In fact we now have an all time high of 56% of you who chose that option - that’s way up from 38% of you last month and 32% of you the month before. We had previously hit 46% (the second highest ever) but that was all the way back in week 37 ( early December when we all thought we’d get a nice Christmas with family). Even more pleasingly the word “Scared” has dropped all the way down to single digits (9% compared to 15% last month) and even “Concerned” is at an all time low of 31%. Remember all the way back to the start of this survey (nearly a year ago)? Then a massive 65% of you were concerned. Then we have “Lonely” and “Angry” - both of which have dropped (from 19% to 14% and from 27% to just 17% respectively). So, in the circumstances, that’s all looking pretty encouraging.

Now you might well guess (well those who have been attentive to previous write-ups anyway) that there is a definite correlation between how you feel and how good a job you think the Government is doing. This month we are back up to 22% of you scoring them in the top 3 and down to just 31% in the bottom 3 of our 10 point scale. That’s the best they have done since week 9 (22nd of May). Although it’s substantially short of the performance in week one where 40% scored them top 3 and just 12% bottom 3. In effect we are seeing a “U shaped” performance but they’re not yet back to their best ever performance.

A similar thing is happening on your view about how quickly, or slowly, the Government is moving. Except here you may remember we summarise the data by creating a score running from -100 (which would mean everyone thought they were moving far too slowly) to +100 (everyone thought they were moving much to quickly). In that context you could see a score of 0 as being the best you could give (a mixture of too slow and too quick). Well this month their actual score is +2 and that’s the closest to zero they have ever been. Specifically 20% of you think they’re moving too slowly and 26% too quickly with the majority in the middle.

Next we move to the new - and very significant - question that is obviously driving much of the rest of the data. How many of you have had vaccinations? Well this is very interesting (for us humble market researchers!) According to the Government data the answer should be 39.4% and (what do you know?) the answer from our panel is…. (Wait for it) … 39.4%! So. We are amazingly accurate. Unsurprisingly this is a massive increase from the 13% of you last time we asked.*
Of course we did also give answer options for those who have been asked to have a vaccine, or for those who intend to refuse when they are asked. Together these added up to 3%. It’s a small, but clearly very significant, group of the population. As promised we then went on to ask those people about their concerns. Of course, just because you have had the vaccine (or will take one when offered) does not mean that you don’t have concerns as well. Those refusing may well just have stronger concerns and so see the balance against taking a vaccine? So, we asked those who did not (or won’t) refuse what concerns, if any, they had as well. The biggest concern amongst those refusing was that there might be long-term effects that we don’t yet understand - 58% agreed with this compared to just 19% of those willing to take the vaccine. Clearly linked to this was the second biggest concern (at 54% of the refusers and 12% of the rest) which was a concern that the vaccines had been developed too quickly. By way of trying to alleviate those concerns it is worth pointing out that the media are - we think - largely to blame for creating this impression. In the early days of the virus they kept telling us that it normally takes ten years to develop a vaccine. Now that may - kind of - be true. But it isn’t really the whole truth. In fact a significant amount of those ten years are spent writing up proposals to get funding, doing presentations, waiting, then “rinse and repeat”. Obviously given the seriousness of the virus all of that time completely, and instantly, disappeared and it never really had any bearing on the safety of the vaccines. The truth is we always had the ability to develop vaccines faster - just not the willingness to fund them as quickly!

Next we had concerns about what exactly goes into the vaccines (46% of the refusers and 6% of the rest of you). There is, of course, a lot of comment on social media about this point along with potential impact on fertility (21% and 3%) and that the vaccines might be a covert attempt to control the population (23% and 2%). We also asked people to specify if they had other concerns that we didn’t list. A common issue here was people who had some specific health concerns. For example, maybe their immune system is compromised or they can have extreme allergic reactions. Obviously that sort of concern should only ever be addressed by a medical professional with detailed knowledge of the specifics. There does seem to be some research being conducted in this area right now - so hopefully these people will get positive answers soon. Let’s hope so anyway.
However, we then have a very small number of people who think the Coronavirus is overstated and/or that there’s already a cure. We’re not quite sure where this information is coming from as it is certainly not the mainstream media. It also appears to be at odds with the findings from this survey. Sadly 20% of you know somebody who has passed away and around 12% of you have (or think you have had in some cases) symptoms yourselves. But of course everyone is entitled to their own opinion and it is really important that this survey reflects the opinions of everyone in the population. Even if you don’t agree with those who don’t want to take the vaccine, you do need to recognise that many people share their opinions and good research must reflect them.

The next major question was actually a question in two parts - and about the idea of vaccine passports. We asked what you thought of this idea both from a perspective of international travel (where it will be up to other Governments of course) and for usage when entering pubs/restaurants/sports venues/etc. Around two thirds of you (67%) thought it was a good idea to have them internationally (39% thought it was definitely a good idea) compared to just 11% for it being a bad idea (8% definitely so). At home the data was slightly less clear-cut, but only slightly - 51% a good idea (28% definitely so) vs 22% a bad one (13% definitely not). So, it seems you are quite strongly in favour of the idea both at home and away.

Finally and quickly (as these notes have got quite long) we asked about alternatives leaders and how you think they might have done compared to the current Prime Minister. Now remember earlier we said 22% of you scored the Government as a whole in the top 3 and 31% in the bottom 3? We can simplify this data down to a score - so 22% minus 31% gives us a score for the Government as a whole of -9. Against this Boris Johnson himself scores -19, meaning that he underperforms against his Government as a whole. We asked about specific individuals in a previous survey and you tended to score the non-Politicians higher. So, this probably reflects the same point.
Looking now at the other leaders (or potential/past leaders) - we only had one who outscored the current Government and that was Margaret Thatcher at -4. By contrast most of the others scored considerably worse. Tony Blair was -32, Theresa May was -33 and Keir Starmer was -27. But by far the worst score was Jeremy Corbyn at -63. Obviously we will never know - but (here in the office) we think he might have done a better job than that if we think just about handling the pandemic? Either way - none of the politicians had a positive score. Maybe we should have listed some scientists as well.

*One point to note on the new question about the vaccine. You’ll see that 39.4% of our panel had had a vaccine at the time of the survey. This is exactly on. Par with Government data – so that’s encouraging. However, I would suspect that the number of people we have refusing the vaccine is an under-read, and possibly quite a big one? Unfortunately neither our panel, nor any other online panel in the UK that I’ve ever seen, is particularly good a full representation of ethnic minority communities. Of course that’s even more true of those elements within those communities that have a stronger cultural, possibly linguistic as well, tie with their community. There does seem to be some evidence that it is precisely those communities who are more likely to refuse the vaccine. As a result I can imagine we are under-reading on that dimension even though we are clearly spot on for those who have accepted the vaccine.

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