The easing of lockdown measures has split the UK into three groups based on their trust in the government and fear of coronavirus, a study has found.
Researchers say those who support the government’s actions, or the ‘trusting’, and those who are critical – the ‘dissenting’, each make up 38 per cent of the population, while the remaining 24 per cent are the ‘frustrated’ – those who do not think change is moving fast enough.
The findings come from analysis by King’s College London (KCL) researchers of an Ipsos Mori survey of 2,254 UK residents.
Professor Bobby Duffy, director of KCL’s policy institute, said: ‘We went into the lockdown incredibly unified, with nine in 10 of the public supporting the measures – but we’re becoming much more divided on the way out.
‘In particular, our views are now aligning much more clearly with our underlying political identities.’
People who are in the trusting group are very worried about the health impacts of the virus, but nine in 10 say they back the government’s handling of the crisis and the information it provides on the pandemic.
Support for the lockdown relaxation measures came from six in 10 of these people – the highest of any group.
There were also seven in 10 people who thought the government had done a good job of protecting UK residents from the virus – the same number who felt that Covid-19 related deaths are one of the two most serious problems caused by the pandemic, well ahead of the economy.
Among this group, 57 per cent voted Conservative while 20 per cent were Labour – and some 63 per cent backed the Leave campaign while 37 per cent were for Remain at the time of the EU referendum.
The Dissenting group was most worried about the health risks and most critical of the government’s response, with nine in 10 thinking the lockdown is being eased too fast, and one in 10 saying they supported relaxation. Just 4 per cent thought the government had done a good job of protecting people.
There were eight in 10 people who put Covid-19 related deaths as a serious problem, ahead of impacts on the economy and education.
Just one in 10 said they would feel fine about sending their children back to school when allowed, making them the group that was the least comfortable with moves to return to normal.
Labour voters made up 52 per cent of this group, 16 per cent voted Conservative. Some 67 per cent backed Remain and 33 per cent were for Leave. The people who were among the frustrated group were the least worried about the health risks, but most likely to be finding lockdown hard – with two in five saying it is being relaxed too slowly.
The economy and jobs are one of the two top problems caused by the pandemic, according to six in 10 of these people compared with three in 10 who said that increased deaths were more serious.
Members of the frustrated group included 42 per cent who had voted Conservative, against 32 per cent who had backed Labour – along with 56 per cent who had voted Leave and 44 per cent who were for Remain.
Prof Duffy said that with nearly one in five of the dissenting group being Conservative voters, it is a sign of ‘how important perceptions of the virus response are likely to be in ongoing political support’.
He suggested that the frustrated group may feel that restrictions were being eased too slowly because ‘a high number of this group are already suffering from financial and other impacts from the lockdown’.